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Clemson vs. Wake Forest: The Tigers Party Like it’s 1981

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Clemson destroys Wake Forest 63-3 in Winston-Salem, and it wasn’t even as close as the score would seem to make it.

Clemson v Wake Forest
Travis Etienne had his way with the Wake Forest defense today.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Clemson went back on the road this week to take on Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. After Trevor Lawrence went out early in the games last week with a neck/head injury, the loss of Kelly Bryant was briefly amplified but Chase Brice quickly dispelled the fears and led the Tigers back to win. Earlier in the week it was announced that Lawrence would play against the Demon Deacons, much to the relief of Tiger nation. There was concern that the Wake up-tempo offense might give the Tiger defense some trouble, but that never materialized.

Wake won the toss and deferred. After the touchback, the Tigers started at the 25. A short gain on a screen to Amari Rodgers and an incomplete pass to Travis Etienne led to 3rd and long. The third down pass to Garrett Williams didn’t convert and the Tigers punted away. Wake took over at their 29. The Tiger defense got them to 3rd and 5 but the Demon Deacons converted when their QB escaped the pocket and scrambled for the first down. A false start penalty and ineffective plays led to 3rd and long and Tre Lamar took advantage of a blocking bust by Wake and sacked the Wake QB. After a punt and short return by Rodgers, the Tigers took over with good field position at their own 42.

An Etienne run and a scramble by Lawrence led to 3rd and 3. As he was winding up for a throw, the ball came out of Lawrence’s hand and the fumble was recovered by Wake. Clelin Ferrell got a sack on 1st down and Wake then appeared to get a first down but an illegal block brought it back for 2nd and 30. The Tiger defense then shut down the Demon Deacon offense and Wake punted. Rodgers took the fair catch at the 18.

Clemson v Wake Forest
Tee Higgins picks up yardage against the Demon Deacons.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Tiger drive started with a hitch pass to Tee Higgins who picked up 11. The Tigers got to 3rd and 7 and Lawrence had to throw it away. Will Spiers punted it away and the return was covered well by Clemson. Lawrence went into the treatment tent. It looked to me like it might be leg cramps. Wake took over at their 30 and X-Man Xavier Thomas stuffed the 1st down run. An illegal formation penalty led to 3rd and 12. The throw on 3rd down was bad and hit Mark Fields right in the hands but he dropped it. Maybe he needs to do some receiver work so he can make these easy interceptions. Elite teams need to make those plays.

On the first play after the punt, Etienne did his thing and took it 59 yards to the end zone. The Tigers were up 7-0. Tiger offensive coaches: MORE. OF. THAT. PLEASE. Wake’s ensuing drive got to 3rd and 7 and they couldn’t convert. After the punt, Clemson took over at their 31. Justyn Ross took it out the the 36 on a hitch pass. Adam Choice gained a couple on 2nd down and couldn’t quite get to the marker on a screen pass on 3rd down. Clemson punted away.

Clemson v Wake Forest
Travis Etienne runs for a touchdown aginst Wake Forest.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Wake started at their 13. After a couple of ineffective plays, the Demon Deacons completed a 22-yard pass to move out near midfield. On a 3rd and 12, Tanner Muse intercepted a bad throw by the Wake QB, but he could be forgiven a bit as Ferrell was hot on his trail. Clemson took over at their 38. Tavien Feaster got 7 yards on first down. Higgins converted on a hitch pass but appeared to be the victim of a targeting offense, to me at least, but again, I freely admit that I still don’t understand the nuances of that penalty and how it is called. Higgins appeared to be ok though. After review, targeting was called, so maybe I’m getting a better handle on things targeting related. Clemson moved on down to the Wake 28 as the 1st quarter expired. On 3rd and 1, Etienne couldn’t get to the down marker and the Tigers went for it on 4th down. On 4th, he got to the edge and gave the Tigers 1st and goal at the 6. On 2nd down, he punched it in from 3 yards out. Clemson led 14-0.

Clemson v Wake Forest
Tavien Feaster breaks through the Wake Forest defensive line.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

I’m sure I’m not alone, but I am bit baffled by the play calling. Clemson has great running backs and good run blocking. Why do they insist on throwing these WR screens over and over? You’re playing an up-tempo offense. Why not feed the ball to Etienne, Feaster, and Choice over and over, and keep that opposing offense off the field? Wait for the defense to start reacting to the run, and then burn them downfield.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Wake Forest
Isaiah Simmons tackles Wake Forest WR Greg Dortch.
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Wake couldn’t get a 1st down on their drive and punted. Clemson took over at their 25 and moved the ball well, getting into Wake territory. Lawrence was sacked on 2nd down bringing up 3rd and 10, but then delivered a strike to Justyn Ross for a 55-yard TD.

Wake started at the 25 and got a first down. Then they tried to run a jet sweep against X-Man and paid for it. On 4th and 11, they punted. The Tigers started at their 8. A couple of Lyn-J Dixon runs got them to 3rd and 4. Lawrence couldn’t connect with Hunter Renfrow on a long pass, and the Tigers punted. Wake roughed Spiers, though and Clemson got the ball back at the 29. Wake sacked Lawrence to force 3rd and long. Etienne appeared to get the 1st down but a penalty brought it back. It was 3rd and 24. Higgins got 12 yards, so the Tigers had to punt. Spiers got a good punt off, but Wake had a good return, assisted by what appeared to me to be a block in the back. On 1st down, they hit their TE down the middle for 20 yards. On 3rd down they didn’t convert, forcing 4th and 1. The Tigers stuffed the run and got the ball back.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Wake Forest
Clelin Ferrell sets his sights on the Demon Deacon QB.
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Choice had a nice run on 1st down, but Higgins was called for a hold. Choice had another good run and made it 2nd and 9. nother good run of 16 yards brought the ball out to the 36. Higgins and Renfrow catches moved the Tigers into Wake territory with about a minute left in the half. The drive ended with a Lawrence to Higgins strike from 20 yards out. Clemson went into halftime with a 28-0 lead.

Wake got the ball to start the 2nd half but a 3rd down sack by Lamar ended the drive. After the punt, Clemson started at their 30. Etienne then struck again and took it 70 yards for the TD. Two minutes into the half, Clemson led 35-0.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Wake Forest
Hunter Renfrow gets yardage after the catch.
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Wake couldn’t do anything on their drive and punted. Rodgers, who was doing a good job catching punts today, took the fair catch at the Clemson 18. The Tigers couldn’t get a 1st down and punted it back to Wake. Wake brought a different QB in and they moved down the field deep into Tiger territory. They couldn’t get it into the end zone, however, and settled for a 25-yard FG. The score was 35-3 with a bit over 8 minutes left in the 3rd quarter.

The next Tiger drive started with Dixon running the ball well out to midfield. On 3rd and 7, Lawrence missed Ross, and the drive stalled. Wake took over at their 19 but couldn’t do anything. After the punt, Chase Brice came in to lead the Tiger offense. On 2nd and 6, Choice ran untouched up the middle for 64 yards to put the Tigers up 42-3.

Shortly thereafter, Dixon got loose on a 65-yard run and it was 49-3. I was beginning to think back to watching the Wake Forest game in 1981 when the Tigers destroyed the Demon Deacons 82-24 en route to the national championship.

Wake started a drive well with good running from their backup QB, but it eventually stalled at midfield. When Clemson took over, Dixon showed why the coaches are so positive on him as the Tigers moved into Demon Deacon territory. Will Sweeney had nice run and Choice got it down to the 2. Diondre Overton then caught a corner fade to make it 56-3.

Wake took over against the Tiger 3rd stringers and moved into Tiger territory. K.J. Henry made a couple of good plays during the series. On 4th and 10 from the 30 Wake went for it, but Mario Goodrich knocked the ball away from the Wake receiver to get the ball back to the Tiger offense. The Tigers were clearly just trying to run the clock and punted it back.

Wake returned the favor and ran three up the middle after letting the clock run down, and then punted. Renfrow came in at QB for the Tigers. A couple of plays in, he handed it to Dixon who then ran 52 yards for the score. It was 63-3 Clemson. Wake got the ball back with under a minute and were content to run the clock out and end the nightmare.

I honestly thought the game would be a bit closer, but this blowout was a great way to enter the bye week. In two weeks the Tigers will meet N.C. State in Death Valley. Be sure to check back with us over the next few days for in-depth coverage of today’s game and previews of the N.C. State game. In the meantime, let’s hear what you think of the Tigers’ season so far in the comments section below.