By Heath Bradley.
By Will Vandervort
WINSTON-SALEM — With cornerback Darius Robinson out until bowl season with a fractured ankle, and fellow starter Bashaud Breeland out with an abdominal strain, it was no secret Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price was going to test the Clemson secondary early and often.
On the Demon Deacons opening possession Thursday night Price threw deep to Brandon Terry on back-to-back plays, then across the middle to Terence Davis and then on a crossing route to Terry, again. In all, Wake Forest targeted Clemson sophomore cornerback Garry Peters four times on five pass attempts, but those four passes netted only 16 yards.
“That was all Garry Peters,” senior corner Xavier Brewer said following 13th-ranked Clemson’s 42-13 victory. “They went after him right away, and he was on top of everything. That was big for the whole team’s confidence. If they were able to complete those passes, there is no telling where the game could have gone.
“That was big for momentum to be able to get those stops.”
That first series set the tone for the secondary and the defense the rest of the night. Wake Forest (4-4, 2-4 ACC) completed just 27 of 44 passes for 232 yards against the Tigers. Clemson allowed no play longer than 27 yards through the air.
Clemson (7-1, 4-1 ACC) did all of this already down three starting cornerbacks—the Tigers lost Martin Jenkins with a hip injury before the season started—and then lost Peters in the third quarter to another injury.
“It was very challenging tonight,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “I have never had anything like this in my whole career happen before.
“I thought despite that, they did well. They tackled better and overall I think it was a much cleaner game.”
It was a game that saw Adam Humphries, who started the night at wide receiver, come in and play the final drive of the night at corner. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said earlier this week Humphries could see time at corner in an emergency situation.
Humphries had two tackles while playing the last 10 plays at cornerback. He had one reception for four yards on offense and had three punt returns for four yards on special teams.
“Adam did great,” Brewer said. “I tell people all the time that Adam is a stud. He can do anything on the football field. He went in there and he played well.
“I tried to tell him one time, ‘When you get in a Cover 2, just play inside because you know they are picking on you with the slants,’ and he said, ‘Dang it! We played Cover 2 outside in high school.’ I told him, ‘You did alright. You made those two tackles. You did well.’”
They keep coming at you. Clemson scored 42 points, the seventh straight game the Tigers have scored at least 37 points in a game. That ties an ACC record. The only other ACC team to score at least 37 in a game seven contests in a row was Florida State in 1995.
Sack lunch. Clemson recorded five sacks for the game, the most for the Tigers in a game since Clemson had six in the season opener of 2010 against North Texas.
Points when it matters most. Clemson won the turnover margin this evening and has now outscored the opposition 83-17 this year in terms of points off turnovers.
Blowing teams out. Clemson has four consecutive wins over ACC teams by 14 points or more since 1978. That year the Tigers beat Virginia (30-14), Duke (28-8), NC State (33-10) and Wake Forest (51-6) in consecutive games. Overall, it is the first time Clemson has won four straight games by 14 or more points against anyone since 2000 when the Tigers won their first five games by at least 21 points.
Hopkins approaches TD record. Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins caught a 12-yard scoring pass from Tajh Boyd in the first half, his 10th of the season and 19th of his career. He needs just one more to tie Aaron Kelly’s career record of 20 set between 2005-‘08. Hopkins also tied a Clemson record with the scoring reception. It was his fifth straight game with at least one touchdown reception. It tied the mark held by Derrick Hamilton in 2003 and Aaron Kelly in 2007. Hopkins has had at least one TD reception in eight straight games against FBS opponents. The only opponent this year he has not had a TD pass was against Furman.
Streak ends. Chandler Catanzaro saw his Clemson record for consecutive made field goals end Thursday night. He had made 20 in a row before missing a 48 yarder in the second half. His previous miss was also against Wake Forest, last year at Clemson.