WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Fourth-ranked Clemson got 161 rushing yards and two touchdowns from running back Wayne Gallman, while quarterback Deshaun Watson totaled three touchdowns and threw for 202 yards on 23 of 33 passing in a 35-13 victory over Wake Forest on Saturday.
With the win, the Tigers (10-1, 7-1 ACC) clinched a share of the ACC’s Atlantic Division and a spot in the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 3 in Orlando. Florida.
Clemson finished with the game with 456 total yards, while the defense held the Demon Deacons to 197 yards, including just 71 on the ground.
So how did the Tigers grade out in the victory over Wake?
Watson played one of his better games of the season. Though he made a couple of throws that should have been picked off, for the most part his decision making was much better. There were no turnovers, plus he ran the ball like the Deshaun Watson we all remember from last year. He ran for 47 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries, while averaging 6.7 yards per rush. He also completed 23 of 33 passes for 202 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams. Watson’s three total touchdowns give him 98 for his career, the third most in ACC history.
Running back: A
Gallman’s 161 yards marked the 16th time in his career that he rushed for 100 or more yards in a game – a new Clemson record. Gallman passed Clemson great Raymond Priester, who had 15 100-yard games from 1994-’97. Gallman averaged 7.3 yards per carry on Saturday. He got things going in the first quarter with a 42-yard touchdown run on a fourth-and-one play. As a team, Clemson averaged 6.0 yards per carry. Adam Choice rushed six times for 34 yards.
Wide receiver: B
There were not any real explosive plays by Clemson’s wide receivers, but it was a solid day, nonetheless. Williams had six catches for 58 yards, while Jordan Leggett had three catches for 50 yards. In all, Watson threw to seven different receivers – five wide receivers, a tight end and one running back. Williams had a 22-yard reception, while Leggett had a 32-yard catch. Williams went over 1,000 receiving yards on a 15-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. He joined Rod Gardner and Sammy Watkins as the only players in Clemson history with two seasons of at least 1,000 receiving yards.
Offensive line: A
Next to the Louisville game, this might be the best game the offensive line has played all year. The Tigers’ lineman may not know how they graded out just yet, but it will probably be high. The offensive line allowed no sacks against a Wake Forest defense that had 32 coming in. Clemson also rushed for 254 yards and averaged 6.0 yards per carry. Clemson had runs of 42, 23 and 12 yards and had four rushing touchdowns.
Defensive line: A
Clemson held the Demon Deacons to 71 yards rushing on 36 carries. Wake averaged just 2.0 yards per carry. Defensive tackle Carlos Watkins had a sack as did reserve defensive end Richard Yeargin, who had a career-high 1.5 tackles for loss. Defensive end Christian Wilkins also had one of the Tigers’ eight tackles for loss to along with his four tackles. Watkins’ sack gave him a team-high 7.5 on the season. His total is the highest by a Clemson defensive tackle since Trevor Pryce also had 7.5 in 1996.
Kendall Joseph was everywhere, or so it seemed. He finished with a team-high seven tackles, two tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Joseph finished with two tackles for loss, pushing his season total to 10, second behind Wilkins. He celebrated his 21st birthday on Saturday. Ben Boulware finished the game with six tackles, while Dorian O’Daniel had four tackles and one tackle for loss in the win. The only thing that keeps this unit from getting an A was tight end Cam Serigne catching a 41-yard pass to set up the Deacons’ only touchdown of the night. Running back Cade Carney also had two catches for 17 yards.
Clemson’s secondary bounced back after being called for three holding penalties and one pass interference call in last week’s loss to Pitt. They bounced back by holding Wake to 7 of 18 passing for 126 yards. The secondary broke up three passes, while cornerback Mark Fields recorded his first sack. The Tigers finished the game with four sacks overall. Safety Van Smith led the secondary with four tackles.
Special Teams: C
In tough windy conditions, Andy Teasdall averaged 36.5 yards per punt, including one inside the 20-yard line and a 51-yard punt. Kicker Greg Huegel did not attempt a field goal for a second straight week, but he was perfect on all five PATs. Also, three of his kickoffs were touchbacks. However, Ray Ray McCloud muffed another punt which resulted in the Tigers’ lone turnover, while Dexter Lawrence was called for a running into the kicker penalty in the first quarter. McCloud’s fumble gave Wake Forest life and led to their first points of the game. Those are two mistakes that could cost a team a game in the ACC Championship Game and in the playoffs.