WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Clemson is starting to learn that when things are not going too well on offense, just give the ball to Travis Etienne.
With just 18 yards on their first three possessions, the Tigers needed just one play to end the futility with a 59-yard run right up the gut with 6:25 to play in the first quarter. From there, No. 4 Clemson asserted itself as it rolled to a 28-0 lead over Wake Forest at the break.
Etienne finished the first half with 97 yards and scored two touchdowns, while quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to Justyn Ross and later a 20-yard touchdown pass to Tee Higgins with 30 seconds to play in the half for a 28-0 lead.
Lawrence finished the opening half 18-of-21 for 173 yards.
After their slow start, the Tigers finished the first half with 312 yards, 207 in the second quarter. Clemson also had 139 rushing yards. Clemson was just 2-of-9 on third down, but both conversions went for touchdowns.
While the offense finally got things going, the Clemson defense owned quarterback Sam Hartman and the Wake Forest offense. The Tigers held the Demon Deacons to 77 total yards in the opening 30 minutes and had six tackles for loss.
Wake had just three yards rushing on 21 carries. Hartman was 7-of-17 passing for 74 yards and one interception in the first half.
The Demon Deacons best chance to get on the board came with a little more than 3:00 minutes to play in the half, but on fourth-and-inches Clelin Ferrell and Tanner Muse stopped Cade Carney for no gain to turn the ball over on downs.
Clemson took a 14-0 lead with a three-yard Etienne touchdown with 13:16 to play in the second quarter. That capped an 8-play, 62-yard drive.
Lawrence’s 55-yard touchdown pass to Ross with 9:53 to play in the half, gave the Tigers a 21-0 lead at the time.