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Clemson vs. Wake Forest: Kelly Bryant injured in win over Demon Deacons

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NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Hello folks, I’m filling in for Dirk today. I’m going to start this instant recap/reaction post off with some hot hot takes.

Hot Takes:

  1. Can we stop or change up our screen game? They’re not working... and it’s not like we’re even only gaining a few yards, we’re losing yardage and putting the ball in a dangerous position. We’re going to get pick-6’d on one of these one day.
  2. It really feels like Austin Bryant has been the most impressive D-Linemen thus far, from a highlight standpoint. I’m sure the others are doing their jobs very well, but Bryant’s been the one fortunate enough to get all the highlight plays. Of course, he’s probably not able to do that if Ferrell, Wilkins, and Lawrence aren’t wreaking havoc and plugging gaps, even if those don’t necessarily translate to Sportscenter highlights. Dorian O’Daniel has been super impressive too. Really excited to see our D-Line and DOD play on Sundays soon. O’Daniel has been so good and so versatile, I think he should go high in the draft.
  3. If Kelly Bryant is out next week (and beyond possibly) we’ll need Zerrick and/or Johnson to step up. Zerrick’s passing so far in the game has been a bit shaky. We’ve got a short week and a road game coming up.
  4. This game feels disappointing even though we didn’t give up any points until after the backups were in the game. After scoring easily on the first 2 drives, it felt like the team could have done more. But, WF does have a solid defense and I didn’t think we’d cover the spread to begin with. The combination of futile offense after the first two drives and the Kelly Bryant injury soured this win a bit.

Before the game even started, Wake Forest was in trouble. Their 4-year starter at quarterback, John Wolford, did not play due to a shoulder injury.

1st Clemson Drive: Clemson started the game with the ball and started the game strong with an excellent first drive. After missing Cain on a deep pass, Bryant went back to Cain on 3rd and 4 and connected on a 28-yard touchdown pass. Wake was crowding the line on that 3rd and 4, probably expecting some sort of QB run. I can’t blame them, that’s sort of what I expected as well.

1st WF Drive: Wake Forest and their backup QB responded with a quick 3-and-out after their QB run was stopped a few yards short of the line to gain on 3rd-and-long.

2nd Clemson Drive: Clemson picked up a first down with a third down conversion before a predictably blown up screen put them at 3rd-and-nine, which was converted with a good intermediate pass to Hunter Renfrow. Clemson then followed up with another blown up screen (guys, I think the screen passes aren’t working). Travis Etienne then got them out of a 2nd-and-long hole with a 20-yard run, breaking tackles on the way. Adam Choice eventually finished the drive with a touchdown run.

2nd WF Drive: On the ensuing Wake drive, a quick slant to Greg Dortch, probably Wake’s best offensive player resulted in a long 40+ yard gain. A facemask penalty on Clemson set Wake up on Clemson’s 13. A short run, a sack by Austin Bryant (really quick recovery after the playaction) and a incomplete pass lead to a short field goal attempt which was juuuuuuuuust missed. Arguably, it was made, but oh well.

3rd Clemson Drive: A nice 3rd-and-long conversion to Tee Higgins and a nice run by Bryant set Clemson up near midfield. After a 10-yard run by Tavien Feaster, Clemson went back to what wasn’t working, the screen game, and picked up 5 or so despite 2 unblocked defenders coming in at Rodgers (I’m really not impressed by the screen game in case you can’t tell). When the drive stalled at the 33, Spence came in for a 43-yard attempt and just missed it. It had plenty of distance but hit the left goal post and bounced off.

3rd WF Drive: A quick 3-and-out after Dorian O’Daniel made a stop on a 3rd-and-short run.

4th Clemson Drive: After a few conversions, Kelly Bryant did a poor job with his awareness of the 1st down line on a QB scramble. He had the line but then moved back behind it. Fortunately it didn’t hurt the Tigers as Etienne converted on 3rd-and-1. After later converting a 4th-and-short, Kelly Bryant made a really bad play, backtracking to try to avoid a sack. Unlike at Virginia Tech, he was not able to escape and also lost the football, resulting in Wake picking up the ball in Clemson territory. Sigh. He would have lost TWENTY yards even if he hadn’t fumbled.

4th WF Drive: WF shot themselves in a foot with a penalty and wasn’t able to convert after starting the drive 1st-and-20. A touchback on the punt set Clemson up at the 20.

Boring stuff: 5th Clemson drive results in a punt, but good special teams play puts it within the 5. After converting once WF punts it back. Mark Fields had a nice pass breakup, which is good to see. Ray Ray has a great return on the WF punt, but there’s a flag. Clemson’s drive doesn’t have much going for it and they punt it back... BUT IT’S A FAKE. Spiers throws it to Cornell Powell for a first down? Clemson comes up short on a 3rd down, but PI on DJ Greenlee sends it back for another attempt. Clemson doesn’t convert on the second try and they punt it back. WF goes for it even though there’s not much time left on the clock and almost convert on a deep pass. After some more exciting deep balls, including one completion, the half ends on an overthrown hail mary into the endzone.

Halftime!

After the break, Clemson forced WF into a quick punt. Bryant then gave the ball back with a bad throw on 3rd-and-long. WF completed a big pass and runs the ball to get into the redzone. A sack on 3rd down took WF to the edge of field goal range - a 50 yarder. No good, unsurprisingly.

On Clemson’s next drive, it managed to convert on 4th down on a nice pass to Hunter Renfrow off a possible pick (looks like the defender made contact to me) and eventually Etienne powered it in. However, Kelly Bryant was hurt on a run to get it close to the goal line... an ankle injury, which is not good for a run-first quarterback.

After getting the ball back from WF, Zerrick was ineffective for a quick 3-and-out. WF mounted a drive, but Clemson stopped them on a 4th down QB draw. Zerrick came back in with Bryant looking done for the day and completed a pass to Cain and almost completed another but Cain dropped the easy catch. Cain was then wide open later in the drive for a surefire touchdown, but Zerrick badly underthrew the ball which resulted in a punt for Clemson that, thanks to good special teams coverage, resulted in WF starting at the 6. After a sack by Nyles Pinckney, Muse made a great play in coverage with a PBU. A short return by Ray Ray gave Clemson great field position.

Hunter Johnson then came into the came and lead a short drive that resulted in a touchdown to Cannon Smith after he leaked out on PA. First career TD for Hunter Johnson!

At this point backups are all over the field for Clemson’s defense with 11 minutes+ left in the game. Clemson loses the edge and gives up a big run to set WF up in the redzone and WF makes Clemson pay with a TD pass. I bet Venables is pissed to lose the shutout. Dammit backups.

Clemson’s offense is stopped in short order by WF leading to a punt. The backups again give up chunks of yardage to WF and a 4th down is converted in the red zone. Amir Trapp drops a interception on 3rd down which leads to a 4th& Goal. WF’s TE is left wide open in the end zone for another touchdown and suddenly the game felt close at 28-14.

Clemson recovers the onside kick and runs the clock out.

All in all, a game that started off well and was a slog afterwards. Perhaps WF made good adjustments, or perhaps the offense lost focus.