Clemson returned to Death Valley today to take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. After Alabama’s loss to LSU and Penn State’s loss to Minnesota, the CFP playoff committee had run out of excuses to keep the Tigers out of the top 4, and had to slot them in at number 3. Continue winning and they will be in the playoffs. Alabama is out for now, but don’t sweat Tide fans, if your team doesn’t get in, at least they will be able to get some rest after playing that tiring SEC schedule.
Clemson kicked off and Wake ran it out to the 24. They tried running into the teeth of the Tiger defense and got very little out of it. The punt went for 59 yards (of course it did), but Amari Rodgers ran it back to the Wake 28. Trevor Lawrence ran for 10 yards on 1st down and then Travis Etienne picked up 4 on the next play. Lawfrence then hit Tee Higgins over the middle for the TD from 14 yards out. Clemson led 7-0 with 11:40 left in the quarter.
B.T. Potter’s kickoff sailed into the end zone and Wake started at the 25. Tanner Muse tracked Wake QB Jamie Newman’s eyes and picked off a sideline pass to give the Tigers the ball at the Demon Deacon 41. Etienne went beast mode running over Wake defenders for 19 yards. Two more Etienne runs, including one where he looked to be stopped in the backfield but still picked up a couple made it 3rd and short. On the next play he took it in from 14 yards out. The Tigers were up 14-0 with just over 5 minutes having been played.
Another touchback put Wake at the 25. Wake kept running inside but the Tiger defense kept stuffing if, including a 4-yard TFL by Xavier Thomas on 2nd down to make it 3rd & 10. The Deacs couldn’t convert and punted it away. Wake got off another big punt but this time Rodgers couldn’t get much of a return. The Tiger offense started an the 19. Lawrence hit Diondre Overton for 12 yards on 1st down and then Etienne ran for 5 yards. He picked up the 1st down with a 11-yard run. Lawrence hit TE J.C. Chalk with a nicely run screen play for 9 yards. Lyn-J Dixon moved the chains picking up a tough 2 yards. An incomplete pass and a short Dixon run set up 3rd & 8. Dixon missed a block and Lawrence was sacked. Clemson set up to punt and Will Spiers fumbled the snap. Wake recovered at the Tiger 28. A couple of good runs moved it to the 11. The Tigers forced 3rd & 11 and the pass was blocked at the line by Tyler Davis. The 30-yard FG attempt went down the middle and Clemson led 14-3 with 1:33 to go in the quarter.
Derion Kendrick returned the kickoff to the Tiger 27. Etienne picked up 3 yards and then Lawrence was sacked again. The quarter ended with the Tigers facing 3rd & 17. Lawrence hit Etienne over the middle but Travis couldn’t quite get to the marker. Spiers’ punt rolled down to the Wake 26. On 3rd & 7 Tanner Muse got to Newman and dropped him to force a punt. It sailed for 59 yards and Kendrick returned it for a couple of yards to the Clemson 22. It seems like any punter facing Clemson should automatically be put on the Ray Guy Award watch list.
Dixon lost 4 yards on 1st down due to poor blocking. Etienne took off up the middle for the 1st down at the 34. Higgins picked up 6 yards and Etienne got 18 more on a screen. Lawrence looked for an open Tee Higgins but overthrew him on 1st down. Dixon took a draw play down to the Wake 20. Lawrence looked for Joseph Ngata over the middle but they couldn’t connect. Overton got 6 yards on a wide screen to set up 3rd & 4. It was an ugly play as Wake blitzed and Lawrence managed to get it off to J.C. Chalk, but he was tackled for a loss. The Tigers settled for a 35-yard Potter FG and it was 17-3 Tigers with 8:45 to go in the half.
Wake started at the 25 and moved the chains on 3rd & 9. The Tiger defense held on the next 3rd down and Wake was forced to punt. It went into the end zone and Clemson took over at the 20. Lawrence scrambled for 12 yards and Etienne got 3 on the following play. Justyn Ross took a wide screen for 5 yards. Ross dropped the 3rd down pass and Spiers came back out. Clemson’s Not-on-the-Ray-Guy Watch List punter ripped off a 30-yard punt down to the Demon Deacon 30. The Tiger defense forced 3rd & 3 but the Wake receiver dropped the ball. The Wake punt sailed into the end zone.
With a little over 2 minutes left, the Tiger offense set off to add some points before halftime. On 2nd down, Lawrence hit Overton for 23 yards. Ross picked up 8 to the Wake Forest 39. Etienne bulled his way down to the 14 with the Tiger offense showing its interpretation of a rugby scrum. Lawrence hit Higgins on a beautifully thrown ball to the edge of the end zone. With 42 seconds left in the half, Clemson led 24-3. Wake had a few good passes but A.J. Terrell picked off a pass down the sideline and returned it to the Wake 30 with 20 seconds left. Lawrence promptly hit Higgins over the middle for another score. The Tigers were up 31-3 with 13 seconds left in the half and the clock expired after one Wake play.
Kendrick took the kickoff out to the 40. Lawrence hit Frank Ladson for 10 yards out to midfield. Etienne got 3 yards running and then 7 on a pass. A couple of plays later, Overton took it down to the 8 with nice running after the catch. A couple of plays later, Lawrence threw a laser beam to Ladson in the back of the end zone for the score. Clemson was up 38-3 at the 10:40 mark of the 3rd quarter. Wake did nothing with their possession and punted. Clemson took over at their 13.
A couple of Etienne runs put the Tigers at 3rd & 3. Lawrence hit T.J. Chase for the 1st down out to the 36. Lawrence looked for Ngata down the right sideline but it was a little too long. Dixon then took a screen for 55 yards down to the Wake 9. On the next play he finished it off to put Clemson up 45-3 with 7:05 left in the 3rd quarter. Wake picked up 8 yards on 1st down but the Tiger defense, with a large dose of 2nd stringers on the field yielded no more. The punt put the Tigers on their 17 yard line.
Chase Brice came in at QB and handed it off to Dixon who picked up 3 yards. Brice hit Davis Allen for 15 yards. The Tigers ran a reverse with Will Sweeney but he lost 3 yards. Dixon picked up 6 and on 3rd & 7, Brice tried to hit Ngata on an out, but Wake defender stepped in front of the pass at the Tiger 46. The Deacs moved down to the Tiger 27 but couldn’t convert 3rd & 4 as the quarter expired. They went for it on 4th down and the pass was broken up. The Tigers took over at their 29.
A couple of Darrien Rencher runs moved the chains out to the 42. A screen to Rencher moved the ball into Wake Forest territory at the 46. Brice rolled right and hit Ngata on the sideline at the 21. On the next play he hit Ngata again over the middle for the score. The Tigers led 52-3 with 11:49 left. Wake didn’t get much done on their possession and punted.
Penalties and an incomplete pass that was just off Cornell Powell’s fingertips on a long throw down the right sideline led to 3rd & 29 for the Tigers. A draw play to Michel Dukes went for 15 and the Tigers punted. Wake picked up a 1st down but the drive stalled out. After a personal foul, the Tigers started at their 10 yard line.
Ben Batson came in at QB for the Tigers but couldn’t generate a 1st down. Clemson punted to the Wake 40 but an illegal formation penalty added 5 yards for the Deacs. Wake ran the clock out and the Tigers secured the 52-3 victory.
The Tigers stay on track for the playoffs, soundly beating Wake Forest. They’ll have a week off before heading to Columbia to take on the Gamecocks. Check back with us over the next few days for in-depth reviews of today’s game and the playoff picture. Thanks again for stopping by.