WINSTON-SALEM, NC - What a game! An instant classic to be sure. I was standing about 15 feet away from Nate Wiggins when he knocked down Sam Hartman's pass to win the game in double-overtime, and the emotion from the players and the large contingent of Clemson fans located in that corner of the end zone was palpable. Wiggins had the worst game of his career, as did the entire secondary, so it was fitting that he should get some redemption with the game-winning play. As soon as I saw Hartman release the pass, I thought to myself, "Uh-oh, hear comes a pass interference call." However, Wiggins and Mickens were in good coverage, bracketing Wake's star receiver Perry in the end zone, and Wiggins came up with the PBU. He laid face down after the play, either upset that he didn't hold on for the interception or emotionally spent and relieved that they had won, but his teammate picked him up, and the celebration was on!
The story of the game for me was not how badly the corners played but that DJ--whose consistent progress and improvement I've documented over the first 3 games--played one of the best games you'll ever see by any quarterback! Ironically, so did his counterpart, Sam Hartman. They combined for 11 touchdown passes and 708 yards with no interceptions! And the Tigers had recorded 3 interceptions in their previous game. It was an amazing back-and-forth shootout between dueling quarterbacks to see which one would flinch first. But everyone expected as much from Hartman. He is a fifth-year starter and was one of the best quarterbacks in the nation last year. For DJ to have all that pressure on him--knowing that the defense was struggling and he was going to have to answer Hartman blow for blow--and totally answering the bell with one phenomenal, clutch pass after another? Wow! This was an even more impressive performance than the record-setting one he had in South Bend as a freshman, setting the all-time passing record for Notre Dame Stadium. This was the DJ I've been waiting over a year to see and that many Clemson fans did not believe existed. I'm sorry to say that even members of my own family suffer from "DJ bias." The DJ haters are so traumatized from the "horrible" 10-3 season last year and want Cade to be the starter so badly that they are completely blind to all the great plays DJ has made this season and that he is a thousand percent better than he was this time last year. And the worst part is that if anyone should have the fans pulling for him, it's DJ. He's been nothing but a class act since he was a freshman. When everyone in the world was on his back all last season, he never hung his head, pouted or lashed back at all the critics. And he never once blamed a single teammate even though there were plenty others to blame, including his receivers who dropped a record number of perfectly thrown passes. DJ just humbly kept his head down and kept working to get better. He made more than a half-dozen throws today that would make Tom Brady envious, and several of them on 3rd and long and in overtime. He also had some great runs, including a handful of 3rd down conversions. The Tigers were an incredible 16-23 on 3rd down, and just about all of those conversions were either great passes or runs by DJ. He was 26-41 for 371 yards and 5 touchdowns with no interceptions! He has thrown just one interception in 4 games, and that wasn't his fault because it was a deflected pass. And for those DJ haters who will say, "He only completed 63 percent," let me point out to you that Tom Brady's NFL career completion percentage is 64 percent! That game-tying 2-point conversion pass DJ made to Beaux Collins while a defender was holding his left leg in the air? That was one of the most remarkable plays I've ever seen. If this were 2021, when DJ was given the third-best preseason odds to win the Heisman, we'd be talking about that play as a possible "Heisman moment!" Who knows, if this performance acts as a springboard for him and he puts up a few more games like this, he could play his way into the Heisman discussion. It's been a heck of a comeback for him so far, and Heisman voters love a good comeback story!
Was the Tigers' defense disappointing? Of course it was. Let me remind you that the Tigers were missing three starters from the secondary in Mukuba, Malcolm Greene and Sheridan Jones. Also, Xavier Thomas and Tre Williams were held out, and they would have made a big difference in pressuring Hartman. Had those players played, Wake would have probably scored 20-28 points like I predicted in my preview. Hartman picked on the Tigers' freshman corners, Pride and Lukus, over and over again. When they didn't complete a long pass on one of the freshmen, it was a pass interference call for 15 yards and a first down. It wasn't just the freshmen, however. Starters Nate Wiggins and Fred Davis also had a miserable game, giving up several big pass plays and pass interference penalties. It's pretty easy to score when you can throw it up for a catch or a PI every time on 3rd and long. Wake has very good, very big, very physical wide receivers, but it was still getting ridiculous. Dabo even said after the game that he was about to go out there and play corner himself. The Tigers gave up 120 yards in penalties (most of it pass interference), and that's the most a Dabo team has allowed in a win other than the Orange Bowl win over Urban Meyer and Ohio State. The good news is that Pride and Lukus are very talented freshmen, and Mike Reed and the staff will coach them up. They'll coach up the rest of the secondary as well, and this will make the team better. They don't have to be ready to beat Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State now. They just have to be ready 3 months from now, and this game will help them get there! When you can remain undefeated with a narrow road win over a top-20 team and still have plenty of mistakes to learn from, it's a double bonus. Getting Tyler Davis and Bryan Bresee back was a big shot in the arm for the defense. Tyler Davis had 1.5 sacks, another TFL and was big in Wake's last possession in overtime. He and Bresee were both instrumental in holding Wake to just 2.8 yards per rush.
The receivers were outstanding and finally living up to what we're used to seeing from "WRU." I think there was one drop, but Beaux, Antonio, Ngata, Allen and Briningstool made big catch after big catch. EJ Williams had a big 3rd down conversion catch as well on a perfectly thrown back-shoulder pass by DJ. The diving and contested catches were few and far between last season, and all of the receivers dropped many passes that hit them right in the hands to kill drives and prevent scores. It was a big reason for low scoring and DJ's horrible numbers for the first 7 games. Now that they are catching the balls they're supposed to and making the tough ones as well, we see 51 points on the scoreboard and 43.8 points per game through the first third of the season. That's No.13 nationally! In fact, only one Clemson team has scored more points through the first 4 games, and it wasn't a Trevor Lawrence, Deshaun Watson or even Tajh Boyd team. It was in 2000 with Woody Dantzler and Rich Rodriguez.
And how about that run by Shipley to tie the game in the 4th? That run pretty much encapsulated the type of running back he is: relentless. It took a second and third effort for him to muscle and stretch his way across the goal line, but he did it! Nobody has a stronger will to win than that guy, pardon the pun. I caught Will signing autographs after the Alma Mater (see the video above). He's scored 7 TD's in the first 4 games.
I would be remiss if I didn't throw some praise to BT Potter. What a weapon! We often get upset when the offense has to "settle" for field goals, but look around college football, folks. There is an epidemic of college kickers missing easy kicks and costing their teams games all over the place. It cost Texas a win over No.1 Alabama a couple weeks ago. It cost No.10 Arkansas and Mizzou at Auburn yesterday. Meanwhile, Potter just goes about his business, making kick after kick. And when the pressure is on, and the Tigers need him to make a clutch 52-yarder to tie the game with 4 minutes left? No problem. I'm sure there were many second-guessing Dabo's decision to attempt a 52-yard field goal with the game on the line instead of going for it on 4th and 4, but Dabo knew he could trust Potter. He was 3-3 against Wake when they needed every single point, and he's now a perfect 7-7 for the season.
Speaking of Arkansas blowing its game against the Aggies, the Hogs did Clemson a big favor because the Tigers will get to host ESPN College GameDay next week for the first time since the Miami game in 2020! They would have been at Arkansas for its game against Alabama next week if the Hogs hadn't lost. The Tigers host NC State for a rare ACC top-10 matchup and critical Atlantic Division showdown. Last year's meeting was a double-overtime thriller that ended the Tigers' long win streak over State and cost the Tigers their 7th straight division title. The Tigers are 6-1 all-time when hosting GameDay, by the way, losing to eventual national champion FSU in 2013.
The Tigers have extended the nation's longest win streak to 10, and Dabo is now 14-0 against the program that ended Tommy Bowden's career and made Dabo Head Coach. Also, another tombstone will be planted in Clemson for beating a ranked team on the road! The Tigers have won 63 straight games when leading at the half, and they are an astonishing 33-7 in one-score games since 2011. That's why I sit up in the press box during these 4th quarter nail-biters and have little doubt that Clemson will find a way to win.
I'll have more in-depth analysis after I watch the broadcast. In the meantime, our post-game interviews, highlights, notes and more photos are below! Shout-out to my fantastic photographers, John and Katy Bolton, for the incredible shots they got from the sidelines, including the game-winning play.
WITH THE WIN....
Clemson won its 10th consecutive game to extend the nation's longest active winning streak.
Clemson posted the 11th winning streak of 10 or more games in program history and its first since its school-record 29-game winning streak across the 2018-19 seasons.
Clemson improved to 70-17-1 all-time against Wake Forest. Wake Forest became the second opponent against which Clemson has won 70 games all-time, including its 72 all-time wins against South Carolina.
Clemson won its 14th consecutive game against Wake Forest, dating to 2009. It marks Clemson’s second 14-game winning streak in series history, trailing a 15-game streak from 1977-91.
Clemson extended its longest active winning streak against an ACC foe (14 straight vs. Wake Forest).
Clemson defeated an ACC Atlantic Division opponent for the 43rd time in its last 45 opportunities. Those figures include games against traditional Atlantic opponents in a divisionless season in 2020.
Clemson improved to 32-4 in true road games since 2015.
Clemson earned its seventh straight road victory against Wake Forest, dating to 2010. Clemson’s last loss in Winston-Salem came in 2008, leading to Dabo Swinney being named Clemson’s Interim Head Coach four days later.
Clemson has now recorded a seven-game road winning streak against a single opponent for the sixth time in school history. It matches Clemson’s seven-game streak at South Carolina from 1934-40 for the fifth-longest road winning streak in school history.
Clemson improved to 25-7 against AP Top 25 teams since 2015.
Clemson improved to 29-1 all-time against Wake Forest in games in which the Tigers are ranked in the AP Top 25. Clemson's only loss to Wake Forest while ranked was in 1945. Ranked Clemson teams have now won 29 consecutive games against the Demon Deacons spanning the 1948-2022 seasons.
Head Coach Dabo Swinney improved to 14-0 as a head coach against Wake Forest. Wake Forest is one of five ACC schools against which Swinney is undefeated as head coach, a list that also includes Duke (3-0), Louisville (7-0), Virginia (5-0) and Virginia Tech (6-0).
The win was Swinney’s 100th against ACC competition. He is now 93-19 against ACC teams in regular season play and 7-1 in ACC Championship Games.
Swinney improved to 33-3 all-time against teams from the state of North Carolina. The victory was his 26th win against a North Carolina-based team in his last 27 opportunities since 2012.
Clemson led 20-14 at halftime. The Tigers have now won 100 of its last 102 games, including each of their last 63, when leading at halftime.
Clemson is now 58-2 when having a 100-yard rusher since 2011.
Clemson improved to 29-2 in September games since 2015.
The victory evened Clemson at 8-8 in overtime games all-time and represented Clemson’s third overtime win under Dabo Swinney.
Clemson earned its first overtime victory since Oct. 15, 2016, a 24-17 win against NC State.
Clemson is now 33-7 in one-possession games since 2011, the highest winning percentage in the country in one-score games in that span (82.5 percent).
Clemson played its 16th overtime game in school history and its first since Sept. 25 last season at NC State. It was the sixth multi-overtime game in school history and Clemson’s third in three years.
Clemson trailed, 35-28, after the third quarter but engineered its first fourth-quarter comeback win since back-to-back comebacks against Florida State and Louisville a season ago.
Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei completed 26-of-41 passes for a season-high 371 passing yards with a career-high five passing touchdowns. He also added 52 rushing yards on 14 carries.
The 300-yard passing game was Uiagalelei’s first of the season and the third of his career, pulling him with one of the career total of his position coach Brandon Streeter (four from 1996-99). It was Uiagalelei’s first 300-yard game since his career-high 439-yard effort at Notre Dame in 2020.
Uiagalelei became the first Clemson quarterback to throw five touchdown passes in a game since Trevor Lawrence at Georgia Tech in 2020.
Uiagalelei improved to 15-4 as a starter, becoming the 17th Clemson player since World War II to earn at least 15 career victories as starting quarterback.
Uiagalelei engineered his fourth career fourth-quarter comeback win, tying Deshaun Watson for the second-most by a Clemson quarterback since 2000.
Uiagalelei has now thrown multiple touchdown passes in three straight games for the first time in his career.
Uiagalelei completed each of his first seven passes, his most to open a game this season, surpassing completions on each of his first six passes against Louisiana Tech. It was one completion shy of matching his best start when he completed his first eight passes against Boston College in 2020 in his first career start.
Uiagalelei became the first Clemson player to throw for 300 or more yards, rush for 50 or more yards and throw three touchdowns in a game since Deshaun Watson accomplished the feat against Louisville on Oct. 1, 2016.
Uiagalelei produced the first game by a Clemson player with at least 370 passing yards, at least five touchdowns and no interceptions since Watson at NC State in 2015.
Uiagalelei finished with a 179.7 pass efficiency rating and has now posted three consecutive games with a passer rating of 145.0 or better for the first time in his career.
Uiagalelei opened the scoring on a 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jake Briningstool.
The receiving touchdown was Briningstool’s career-high second of the season and the third of his career.
Clemson opened the game with an eight-play, 88-yard touchdown drive culminating in the touchdown by Briningstool. Clemson has now scored on its opening possession in eight of its last nine games, dating to last season.
Entering the game, Clemson and Wake Forest ranked No. 2 and No. 4, respectively, in the nation in number of games scoring first. With the win, Clemson improved to 42-4 since 2018 when scoring first, while Wake Forest dropped to 5-10 when opponents score first in the same span.
Briningstool finished the game with six receptions for a career-high 72 yards, surpassing his previous career high of 56 yards against UConn last season.
Wide receiver Joseph Ngata gained a season-high 84 yards on four receptions.
Running back Will Shipley rushed 20 times for 104 yards with a touchdown. He has now rushed for 100 yards in consecutive games for the second time in his career.
On Clemson’s first play from scrimmage, Shipley (1,091) surpassed 1,000 career rushing yards with a career-long 53-yard rush.
Shipley scored on a one-yard touchdown run on a second effort in the fourth quarter. Shipley has now rushed for a touchdown in seven consecutive games, dating to last season. His streak is Clemson's longest since Travis Etienne rushed for a touchdown in seven straight games in 2020.
Shipley’s touchdown streak ties Kenny Flowers (seven consecutive games in 1985) and Travis Etienne (seven-game streaks in 2018 and 2020) for the sixth-longest streak of consecutive games with a rushing touchdown in Clemson history.
Wide receiver Brannon Spector scored his first career touchdown on a career-long 41-yard reception on Clemson’s second drive.
Tight end Davis Allen caught four passes for 36 yards with two touchdowns. He became the first Clemson tight end to catch multiple touchdown passes in a game since Braden Galloway against Miami (Fla.) in 2020.
Allen scored his first touchdown of the season on a five-yard pass from Uiagalelei in the third quarter. Allen added a 21-yard touchdown catch in the second overtime period.
The touchdown catches were Allen’s eighth and ninth of his career, pulling him into a tie with K.D. Dunn (nine from 1981-84) for the sixth-most by a tight end in Clemson history.
Following the Allen touchdown, Uiagalelei connected with Beaux Collins for a successful two-point conversion. It was Clemson’s first successful two-point conversion since the College Football Playoff National Championship Game against LSU to conclude the 2019 season, when Amari Rodgers converted the try on a pass from Trevor Lawrence.
Wide receiver Beaux Collins caught a 21-yard pass from Uiagalelei in the first overtime period.
Collins has now caught a touchdown in four straight games for the first time in his career. He became the first Clemson player with a touchdown catch in four straight games since Tee Higgins' five-game streak late in the 2019 season.
Collins became the first Clemson player to post a receiving touchdown in each of the first four games of a season since Sammy Watkins in 2011.
Wide receiver Antonio Williams made his first career start and recorded a career-long 39-yard reception from Uiagalelei on a third-down conversion in the second quarter.
Clemson concluded the first half with a 15-play, 51-yard drive that culminated in a 38-yard B.T. Potter field goal. In terms of plays run, it was Clemson’s longest drive of the season and its longest since a 16-play touchdown drive in last year’s Cheez-It Bowl.
Potter finished 3-for-3 on field goals and 4-for-4 on PATs.
On his fourth PAT of the day (which tied the game 45-45), Potter (204) passed Chandler Catanzaro (203 from 2010-13) for second on Clemson's leaderboard for career PATs.
Potter’s third field goal of the game, a career-long-tying 52-yarder, tied the game at 38 late in the fourth quarter. On the kick, Potter (60) joined Nelson Welch, Chandler Catanzaro, Obed Ariri and Chris Gardocki as the only players in school history with 60 career field goals.
Potter’s 52-yard field goal added to his existing Clemson records for career field goals of 40 yards or more (27) and 50 yards or more (eight).
With 13 points in the game, Potter (384 career points) passed Greg Huegel (379 from 2015-18) for fourth in school history in career points.
Linebacker Trenton Simpson recorded his first forced fumble of the season in the first quarter.
Defensive tackle Tyler Davis returned to action after missing two games and recorded two sacks to push his career sack total to 12.0.
Defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro added his second sack of the season.
Clemson converted 16-of-23 third downs. Clemson’s 16 third-down conversions were a school single-game record, surpassing its 15 against Western Carolina in 1983.
Clemson scored 51 points, its most since a 52-17 win against Pitt in 2020.
Clemson has now produced back-to-back 40-point performances for the first time since last year's UConn and Wake Forest games. Clemson has also scored 45 points in back-to-back games for the first time since the Pitt and Virginia Tech games to end the 2020 regular season.
Clemson has now scored 35 points in four consecutive games for the first time since a seven-game streak to open the 2020 season. Clemson also reached the 30-point mark for the ninth time in a 10-game span, dating to last season.
Clemson gained 559 yards and has now gained 500 yards in back-to-back games for the first time since games against Miami (Fla.) and Georgia Tech in 2020.
Clemson played its first game without a lost turnover since Oct. 15 of last season at Syracuse.
Neither team recorded a turnover in the game, the first Clemson game in which neither team produced a turnover since Nov. 17, 2018 vs. Duke.
Clemson has now finished even or positive in the turnover margin in eight consecutive games, dating to last season. It represents Clemson's first time doing so since a nine-game streak in 2019. Clemson's last game in which it lost the turnover margin was on Nov. 6 last season at Louisville.
Clemson won despite 120 penalty yards, its most since the 2013 Orange Bowl vs. Ohio State (144).
The game included 11 combined passing touchdowns between the two teams, the most in a Clemson game in records dating back to 1950.
The game was only the third in Clemson history in which both teams scored at least 45 points, joining Clemson’s 2011 win against Maryland (56-45) and its 2012 win against NC State (62-48).
The game marked only the third time in history that Clemson and Wake Forest had met in a matchup of two AP-ranked teams. In the previous two meetings, No. 10 Clemson defeated No. 19 Wake Forest, 21-14, in 1948, and No. 16 Clemson defeated No. 17 Wake Forest, 13-12, in 1950.
Wake Forest took a 21-20 lead with 12:13 remaining in the third quarter. It ended a streak of 440 minutes and 50 seconds in which Clemson had not trailed, dating to last year’s game against UConn. It had been the longest active streak in the country.
Head Coach Dabo Swinney coached his 190th career game as Clemson's head coach to pull within one game of North Carolina and Wake Forest’s Bill Dooley (191) for third-most career games as an ACC head coach.
Captains for the contest were defensive tackle Tyler Davis, defensive end K.J. Henry, offensive lineman Will Putnam and quarterback DJ Uiagalelei.