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Clemson’s defense controls victory over Wake Forest

Quarterback+Cade+Klubnik+had+a+great+game+against+Wake+Forest%2C+rushing+for+a+season-high+48+yards.
Landry McDaniel
Quarterback Cade Klubnik had a great game against Wake Forest, rushing for a season-high 48 yards.

Clemson defeated the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 17-12 at Memorial Stadium on Saturday as the team now improves to 2-2 in conference play.

The game was far from pretty, marred by turnovers and three-and-outs for the Tigers. The first fumble came midway through the first quarter when signal caller Cade Klubnik lost the ball following a three-yard rush, recovered by Wake Forest defensive lineman Kevin Pointer to end the Tiger’s drive. 

The second came on a punt return, when a dropped ball by freshman receiver Tyler Brown resulted in a return of possession to the Demon Deacons at Clemson’s 31-yard line.

However, Wake Forest did not score any points off of these turnovers, and head coach Dabo Swinney said “that’s what won the game.”

Klubnik, for his part, put his arms and legs to work. He completed 18 of 28 pass attempts for 131 yards in the air, in addition to 12 rushes for a season-high 48 yards on the ground. He looked calm in the pocket thanks to great protection from his offensive line, which allowed no sacks against a Wake Forest defense which has averaged 3.75 sacks per game this season. 

“They (Wake Forest) did a great job covering up, but I definitely had opportunities to make plays downfield and I really wish I had that one back with Hamp (Greene). It’s just a little bit of miscommunication, but I mean we did a great job up front, just giving me all day to sit back here and do what I do, and I’m just really proud of them,” Klubnik said. 

Will Shipley led the offense with 19 attempts for 97 rushing yards and one touchdown, while Beaux Collins led with five receptions for 50 yards in the air.

Clemson’s defense had its work cut out for them thanks to Wake Forest’s slow-mesh specialty offense. In this play style, quarterback Mitch Griffis begins the snap by holding the ball to the chest of a running back before deciding whether to throw or run it, allowing him roughly an extra 1.5 seconds of decision-making time.

These few extra seconds may have cost him crucial yardage, as he was sacked four times throughout the game. The first was from Clemson defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro, who cost the Demon Deacons eight yards, ending their drive and forcing them to kick for a field goal. Sophomore linebacker Wade Woodaz added two for a loss of one yard each, and true freshman T.J. Parker added the final in the fourth quarter.

“We just had to wreak havoc at the line of scrimmage,” Orhorhoro said of how the defense readjusted. “Try to make it a fast mesh, everybody getting back there, offensive linemen getting knocked back, and they’re under pressure with the quarterback, and he’s gonna have to speed it up. I think we did a pretty great job.”

The Tiger’s defense was otherwise highlighted by senior safety R.J. Mickens, who led the team with nine total tackles, five of which were solo. He also recovered a fumble forced by freshman safety Khalil Barnes.

“It was just awesome seeing him get in there and make that play,” Mickens said of his younger teammate. “With Jalyn Phillips out, I had to change positions and Khalil really just went in there and made a great play.”

“He just makes plays, he’s a really instinctual player, and I think the future is really bright for him.”

Wake Forest made its lone trip to the end zone of the game thanks in large part to penalties against Clemson’s defense which cut their distance to the goal in half. However, the Demon Deacons failed to complete their two-point conversion attempt.

The Tigers red zone defense excelled, forcing Wake Forest to kick for a field goal twice. 

Swinney is now tied with Hall of Fame coach Frank Howard, the field’s namesake, for the most wins in program history with 165.

“It’s just a blessing to be a part of, most of all it’s a reflection of all the great players, coaches and support staff that we’ve had. I’ve truly stood on the shoulders of giants,” Swinney said.

“I met Frank Howard when I was 10, 11 years old at my mom’s birthday party at a Holiday Inn, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I met him. He’s had dinner with my parents quite a few times, there’s a picture of them hanging in my office.”

The Tigers will have the next weekend off to rest up and will hit the road to meet No. 17 Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, on Oct. 21. 

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Grace O'Donnell, Sports Editor
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