CLEMSON, SC - Whew! The Tigers hobbled into the bye week surviving a scare at home against Wake on Saturday 17-12. I kept saying all week that the Tigers had lost the week before their bye 2 of the last 3 years (both at Notre Dame), and I would be interested to see if they could finish the first half of the season strong. The defense certainly did, but we saw some of the same gaffs on offense and special teams come back to haunt the Tigers yet again. Fortunately, they were able to overcome them this time, winning the game despite losing the turnover margin again. Another botched exchange between Cade and Shipley on an RPO, just like the Duke game, gave Wake the ball at the Tigers' 9-yard line, and true freshman Tyler Brown, who has been a incredible up until now, had a miserable game with a muffed punt, poor decisions on other punts and a dropped screen pass. The offense also failed to convert a 3rd and one and a 3rd and 2, and there were dropped passes by Briningstool and Collins as well as Brown. However, the defense was outstanding once again, holding Wake to just a pair of field goals until the final 2 minutes of the game when the backups were in. And the refs gifted Wake one of the field goals with a horrendous roughing call on 3rd and long. It was probably the worst roughing call I've ever seen. Even when Cade fumbled on inside the 10, the defense forced a turnover on downs! They sacked the quarterback 4 times after a season-high 5 sacks last week, and they held Wake to just 239 total yards, 30 of which came from 2 penalties on the Deacs' final drive with 2 minutes left. True freshman Khalil Barnes forced another fumble, and it was the only turnover created by the defense after 4 last week. Weitz missed another field goal left, but the good news is that it was from 51 yards and had plenty of leg! He also redeemed himself by making a 25-yarder later.
The Tigers had lousy field position almost the entire first half, and yards were hard to come by in the run game. However, Shipley came out of the locker room with resolve and rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown in the 2nd half! The Tigers were short 6 starters today. Turner and Parks, of course, are out for the season. Antonio Williams and Nate Wiggins were game-time decisions and suited up but did not play. Sheridan Jones was held out at the last minute due to pregame headaches and blurred vision, and Jalyn Phillips was knocked out of the game early. Jeadyn Lukus, starting in place of Wiggins, was also knocked out late. In spite of all that, the Tigers were able to grind out a gritty win that came down to an onside kick. It's a good thing they have Hamp Greene on the hands team!
Dabo won his 165th game, tying the legendary Frank Howard for the Clemson record. Dabo told us after the game that he actually met Howard when he was about 10 years old, and his parents had dinner with Howard several times. That can't be a coincidence! Also, Howard coached his final game just 2 days before Dabo was born, and Howard's final win was on All Saints' Day, November 1, the same day that Dabo won his first game as head coach! Pretty hair-raising stuff. The bye week comes at a perfect time for the Tigers! They have some players banged up that need to heal, and they have plenty of issues to correct before a big road game at Miami. Last year, the Tigers had to live with the taste of defeat at Notre Dame for 2 weeks, so they're glad to have won this game. Dabo is now 15-0 against Wake, the school that got Tommy Bowden fired, and 10-0 against Dave Clawson.
I'll have more in a bit after I watch the tape. In the meantime, our post-game interviews, highlights and notes are below!
WITH THE WIN...
Head Coach Dabo Swinney earned his 165th career win to tie College Football Hall of Famer Frank Howard as the winningest head coach in Clemson history (165 from 1940-69). Howard’s 165th and final career victory came on Nov. 1, 1969 against Maryland. Swinney’s first career victory came exactly 39 years later at Boston College on Nov. 1, 2008.
Swinney also matched the career win total of one of Howard's famous foes, College Football Hall of Famer Bobby Dodd, who won 165 career games at Georgia Tech.
Swinney (101-21) earned his 101st career regular-season conference win to pass Howard (100) for sole possession of the school record for career regular season conference victories. Howard went 100-48-5 in conference play across the Southern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference.
Swinney improved to 15-0 as a head coach against Wake Forest. Wake Forest is one of four ACC schools against whom Swinney is undefeated as head coach, a list that also includes Louisville (8-0), Virginia (5-0) and Virginia Tech (6-0).
Swinney became the first FBS head coach in Stats Perform's data set back to 1996 to win the first 15 games in a series against a single FBS opponent.
Swinney improved to 10-0 against Wake Forest Head Coach Dave Clawson. Clawson became the first coach to be defeated by Swinney 10 times.
Clawson joined Walter Johnson (16), Bill Dooley (15), George Welsh (13), Lonnie McMillan (12) and Jim Grobe (10) as the only coaches to be defeated by Clemson 10 times.
Swinney improved to 36-4 all-time against teams from the state of North Carolina.
Clemson improved to 71-17-1 all-time against Wake Forest. Wake Forest is now within one defeat of Clemson’s most-defeated opponent, South Carolina, which Clemson has beaten 72 times.
Clemson won its 15th consecutive game against Wake Forest, dating back to 2009, to tie the longest winning streak in series history (15 from 1977-91). Clemson’s current 15-game winning streak against Wake Forest is the Tigers’ longest active winning streak against an FBS foe.
Clemson has now produced its sixth winning streak of 15 or games against a single opponent in school history. It ties 15-game streaks against Wake Forest (1977-91) and Presbyterian (1944-present) for the fourth-longest single-opponent winning streak in school history.
Clemson earned a 12th straight home victory in its series with Wake Forest, dating to 2000. Clemson’s last home loss to Wake Forest came in 1998. Clemson’s 12-game winning streak against Wake Forest at Death Valley is one of seven double-digit home winning streaks against a single opponent in school history and its second such streak against Wake Forest (16 straight home wins in the series from 1963-91).
Clemson improved to 69-7 against ACC opponents (including postseason play) since the start of the 2015 season.
Clemson improved to 62-3 at Memorial Stadium in the College Football Playoff era (since 2014).
Clemson improved to 37-2 at home against ACC opponents in the CFP era. Clemson is now 48-3 against the ACC in its last 51 conference home games at Death Valley, a figure that dates to Clemson's first conference home game of 2011.
In rebounding from a previous home loss, Clemson still has not lost consecutive contests at Memorial Stadium since 2008 in Tommy Bowden's final home game as head coach and Dabo Swinney's first home game as interim head coach.
Clemson improved to 90-10 in regular season play since the start of the 2015 season. Eight of Clemson’s 10 regular season losses in that span have been decided by a final margin of 10 or fewer points.
Clemson improved to 128-16 against AP-unranked teams under Dabo Swinney and is now 105-6 in those games since the start of the 2012 season.
Clemson led 7-3 at halftime and has now won 110 of its last 115 games when leading at halftime.
Clemson is now 131-3 since 2011 when leading after three quarters.
Clemson improved to 42-27 when losing the turnover margin under Dabo Swinney.
Clemson now has a 126-6 record when totaling more first downs than its opponent since 2011.
Clemson is now 78-3 when rushing for 200+ yards under Dabo Swinney.
Clemson has now won 39 consecutive games when not allowing a sack since 2011.
Clemson has won 110 of its last 111 games when holding teams under 23 points (dates to 2010).
Clemson is now 36-9 in one-possession games since 2011, the highest winning percentage in the country in one-score games in that span (.800).
Clemson allowed zero points on its two offensive turnovers. Clemson had allowed 43 points off of eight turnovers in its first five games.
Clemson held Wake Forest to 239 yards and 12 points after surrendering 447 yards and 45 points to the Demon Deacons a year ago.
Clemson outgained Wake Forest, 338-239, and has now outgained its opponent in total yards for in seven consecutive games for the first time since the first seven games of the 2020 season.
Clemson’s first two scoring drives lasted 16 plays and 15 plays. It was Clemson’s first time recording multiple 15-play scoring drives since the 2021 Cheez-It Bowl against Iowa State.
Clemson did not allow a sack for the second time this season and has now won 39 consecutive games when not allowing a sack since 2011.
Clemson rushed for 203 yards, its third 200-yard rushing performance of the season and its 81st in Dabo Swinney’s head coaching tenure. Clemson is 78-3 when reaching the 200-yard mark on the ground under Swinney.
Quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 18-of-28 passes for 131 yards. He also rushed 12 times for 48 yards with a touchdown.
After Wake Forest opened the scoring with a field goal, Clemson responded with a seven-yard touchdown run by Klubnik in the second quarter.
The touchdown run was Klubnik’s fifth of his career and his career-high third of the season.
Klubnik’s rushing touchdown was the culmination of a 16-play drive, Clemson’s longest drive of the season in terms of plays and its longest since a 16-play touchdown drive in the 2021 Cheez-It Bowl.
Clemson has now scored at least one rushing touchdown in a national-best 73 of its 75 games since the start of the 2018 season.
Clemson has also rushed for multiple touchdowns in five straight games for the first time since a 28-game streak across the 2018-20 seasons.
Running back Will Shipley rushed 19 times for 97 yards with a touchdown.
Shipley scored his third rushing touchdown of the season on a one-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to give the Tigers a two-score lead with 5:49 remaining.
Shipley has now rushed for a touchdown in three consecutive games for the first time since a six-game streak in 2022.
Shipley (29) tied Fred Cone (29 from 1948-50) for eighth on Clemson's all-time leaderboard for career rushing touchdowns.
Shipley (31) also tied Fred Cone (31) for eighth on Clemson's all-time leaderboard for total career touchdowns.
Shipley (2,370) entered the game as one of 21 players in Clemson history to reach 2,000 career rushing yards. During the contest he moved past Stacey Driver (2,293 from 1982-85) and Chuck McSwain (2,320 from 1979-82) for 13th in Clemson history in career rushing yards.
With 101 all-purpose yards in the game, Shipley (3,613) passed Artavis Scott (3,568) for 11th on Clemson's all-time leaderboard for career all-purpose yards.
Clemson has now gone four straight games without throwing an interception for the first time since the final four games of the 2019 season. Since a first-quarter pick-six against Charleston Southern, Clemson has thrown 165 consecutive passes without an interception (29 against Charleston Southern, 33 against Florida Atlantic, 38 against Florida State, 37 against Syracuse and 28 against Wake Forest). Klubnik has thrown 151 of Clemson's 165 passes in that stretch.
On his 39th offensive snap of the contest on Clemson’s first drive of the third quarter, center Will Putnam became the sixth player in school history to play 3,000 career snaps from scrimmage, joining fellow offensive linemen Mitch Hyatt, Dalton Freeman, Landon Walker, Kyle Young and Glenn Rountree.
In the first quarter, Clemson held Wake Forest to no points on a turnover on downs on a drive that started at the Clemson nine-yard line following a lost fumble. It marked Clemson’s first time holding an offense without points on a drive that started in Clemson’s own red zone following a turnover since 2019 at Syracuse.
Defensive tackle Tyler Davis made his 45th career start to tie Christian Wilkins' Clemson record for starts by a defensive tackle (45 from 2015-18).
Defensive end Justin Mascoll played 59th career game to pass K.J. Henry (58) for sole possession of the Clemson record for career games played by a defensive end.
Defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro recorded a third-down sack in the first quarter to force Wake Forest to settle for a red zone field goal.
Orhorhoro has now recorded a full sack in back-to-back games for the first time in his career.
Linebacker Wade Woodaz added his first sack of the season in the second quarter.
Woodaz added his single-game career-high second sack of the contest later in the quarter.
Woodaz became the second Clemson player this season to record 2.0 sacks in a game, joining T.J. Parker. Woodaz became the first Clemson linebacker to do so since Jeremiah Trotter Jr.’s three-sack performance against North Carolina in the 2022 ACC Championship Game.
Clemson recorded its lone takeaway in the second quarter on a forced fumble by safety Khalil Barnes that was recovered by safety R.J. Mickens.
Barnes became the first Clemson freshman to force multiple fumbles in a season since Myles Murphy in 2020 (three). He also joined Murphy and Stephone Anthony — both of whom were first-round NFL Draft picks — as the only Clemson players in Dabo Swinney’s tenure to force multiple fumbles in their freshman seasons.
It was the second career forced fumble for Barnes and the first career fumble recovery by Mickens.
Defensive end T.J. Parker recorded his fourth sack of the season in the fourth quarter. He has now recorded at least one sack in back-to-back games for the first time in his career.
Parker entered the game leading all freshmen nationally in tackles for loss and now has 8.5 on the season. Through six games, he is already approaching Myles Murphy's true freshman school record of 12 and more than halfway to the school record for any freshman (true or redshirt) set by Michael Dean Perry in 1984 (15).
Clemson has now collected four or more sacks in back-to-back games for the first time since a four-game streak to end 2022.
Kicker Jonathan Weitz converted a 25-yard field goal on the opening drive of the third quarter. It was the culmination of a 15-play, 67-yard scoring drive lasting 7:45.
Wide receiver Hamp Greene smothered a Wake Forest onside kick attempt to help seal the victory.
Clemson and Wake Forest played on the 17th anniversary of one of the series’ most memorable plays: a 66-yard return of a botched field goal by the late Gaines Adams that helped Clemson turn a 17-3 fourth-quarter deficit into an eventual 27-17 win at Wake Forest in 2006.
Captains for the contest were wide receiver Hamp Greene, offensive lineman Trent Howard, safety Jalyn Phillips and linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr.