Perhaps the most consistent part of Clemson’s 28-14 victory over Wake Forest was the Tiger’s first-team defense through the first three quarters of the game.
The Demon Deacons (4-2, 1-2 ACC) threw Clemson a curve ball when it started Kendall Hinton at quarterback over John Wolford, who the Tigers prepared to face all week. Wolford did not play due to an injury so the quarterback swap forced Clemson’s defense to react quickly.
During his college football career at Clemson, Christian Wilkins has learned the game of football is truly about the way you respond to adversity, which is exactly what the defense did on Saturday.
“You have to be ready for anything,” Wilkins said. “That’s what this game is all about. It’s all about making adjustments and dealing with different tweaks and adversity. You have to be ready for anything.”
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables said the defense’s response to facing a new quarterback they had not studied was one of discipline and focus.
“I thought our guys responded, came out with the right focus, intensity, set the tempo right away,” the Clemson coach said. “We played outstanding in the first half, came back out and got after them in the third quarter. I love how they played. There will be some great teaching opportunities, but I thought our guys played really well and gave us a chance to win.”
The Tigers (6-0, 4-0 ACC) owned the line of scrimmage from the get-go as the Demon Deacons had three of their first four drives end with three-and-outs.
“We take a lot of pride in that,” Venables said. “Not letting a team get into a rhythm. I think it’s a reflection to our guys being very well prepared and focused.”
When the offense seemed to be struggling, the defense stepped up its game. Through three quarters, Wake Forest tallied just 200 total yards and went 2-for-11 on third down conversions while keeping the Demon Deacons off of the scoreboard.
Wilkins, who totaled 5 tackles in Saturday’s contest, maintains the same zoom-focused mentality day in and day out to keep teams from moving the ball up field.
“You have a job to do,” Wilkins said. “We try to do it to the best of our abilities. We just try to be the best on every play.”
Most of Wake Forest’s yards and scores did not come until Clemson built its 28-0 lead in the fourth quarter after Clemson started playing its second- and third-team defense. The inexperienced players allowed the Demon Deacons 136 more yards as well as two touchdowns. At the end of the game, Wake Forest finished with 336 total yards.