By Heath Bradley.
By Heath Bradley
WINSTON-SALEM, NC – The Clemson defense continued its strong play from the previous weekend and helped lead No. 13 Clemson to a 42-13 victory over Wake Forest Thursday night at BB&T Field. The Tigers held the Deacons to 290 total yards, the first time the Tigers have held an opponent under 300 total yards this year.
The Clemson defense set the tone early on, allowing only 42 yards of total offense in the first quarter, including minus-11 yards rushing on seven attempts. The Tigers forced the Demon Deacons to punt on their first five possessions and then forced Wake Forest running back Josh Harris to fumble setting up the fifth touchdown of the first half to give the Tigers a 35-7 lead heading into the break. Clemson held the Demon Deacons to 105 total yards on 36 plays in the first half, an average of 2.92 yards per play.
The Tigers (7-1, 4-1 ACC) continued their strong defensive play in the second half, holding the Demon Deacons to six points over the final 30 minutes. When asked following the game about the play of the defense, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney praised the unit, especially the its ability to get to Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price.
Clemson recorded a season-high five sacks.
“Defensively, five sacks is tremendous,” Swinney said. “I think that’s the most we have had in a game since 2010.”
Pass rush, once an area of concern for this team, has recently started to get better. Besides the five sacks, it forced seven tackles for loss and three fumbles. Leading the way for the Tigers was Jonathan Willard, who totaled eight tackles, a sack, and a half tackle for loss. Vic Beasley was once again a pass rushing force, getting to Tanner Price twice, totaling two sacks for 16 yards.
“There was a little bit of inconsistency in the second half, but overall it was what we want,” defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. “We are making improvement and winning. We are playing well enough to give ourselves a chance to win.”
Clemson players and coaches have spent much of this week discussing how this game was no different than the rest. While the Tigers have not had much success on Thursday nights in recent years, this team is different. This Clemson team was different in that it took care of business on both sides of the ball.
Swinney told reporters that Thursday is known as “Team Thursday” and that Thursday’s effort was the “epitome” of that motto. With an offense as explosive as Clemson’s, Swinney believes that if the Tigers can hold opponents to 17 points or fewer, they have a good shot to win.
“We talk about holding the opponent to 17 points or less and we feel like when we do that we have a great chance to win a lot of games,” the Clemson coach said. “That is two weeks in a row we have been able to do that.”
And that’s two weeks in a row the defense set that tone.