WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — On Saturday evening, No. 4 Clemson secured its spot in the 2016 ACC Championship game with a 35-13 victory over Wake Forest.
Here is what we heard after the Tigers’ 10th win of the season.
Head coach Dabo Swinney was incredibly proud of the way his team responded to last week’s loss against Pittsburgh.
“I am just really proud of our football team. It was a long week, and the biggest thing that I am proud of is how they responded. How they responded Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, all week and then obviously tonight,” he said. “Wake Forest was a tough team. This was a tough team to prepare for schematically with some of the things they do coverage wise. I am just really proud of them. That is all I can tell you. That is what we talked about all week. You have adversity,” Swinney said. “It’s about how the guys in that room, how they respond, how they think, and that is what everything is about. They had a great week. They bounced back and played an outstanding game tonight.”
After the game, Clemson was awarded with a trophy for winning the ACC Atlantic Division Title, and Swinney took a moment to reflect on the consistent success that has been cultivating at Clemson the past eight years.
“We are division champs. That is the fifth time in eight years. I am just so thankful for not just this team, but all the teams that we have had over the last eight years that have helped us build a great foundation of consistency and excellence in everything that we do,” Swinney said. “Our fourth opportunity to be able to go play for the ACC Championship. Our seniors, this is a special group man. First time ever to have back-to-back undefeated seasons on the road.”
Quarterback Deshaun Watson said the victory was one of Clemson’s best performances, and that had a lot to do with all three phases having success on the field.
“We had all three phases clicking; offense, defense and special teams. Everyone was on the same page and if we can be on the same page and protect the ball and the defense does its part, then we’ll be just fine,” Watson said. “We understood that last week did not define us, and our goals are still in front of us, so we just have to keep preparing each week and preparing each day to go out there and earn it.”
Clemson’s defense held Wake Forest to 197 yards of total offense and racked up four sacks for a loss of 31 yards. Defensive tackle Carlos Watkins said it was good for Clemson to have the chance to redeem itself after last weekend’s loss.
“We always practice hard, but we aren’t used to losing so we just responded well. We wanted to come out here and assert our dominance,” the senior said.
Clemson also redeemed its rushing attack as the Tigers totaled 254 yards on the ground. Wayne Gallman rushed for 161 yards and two scores on 22 carries, while Watson had two rushing touchdowns of his own.
“It was huge. That was what we wanted to do coming into the game. We knew that would help us be able to dominate a football game, and I am really proud of how we took ownership as an offensive line, how Wayne ran, and how we were able to get it done,” offensive lineman Jay Guillermo said. “For one thing, this is a really good defense and not a lot of people have been able to run a whole lot on them. The fact that we could get 250 yards is great.”