Clemson scored two touchdowns in the first five minutes of the game and then two more in the last 42 seconds of the half and added a 35-yard B.T. Potter field goal in between to take a 31-3 halftime lead into the locker room.
The game could not have started out any better for third-ranked Clemson on Saturday. After forcing a three-and-out on Wake Forest’s first series, Amari Rodgers returned the ensuing punt 52 yards to the Demon Deacons’ 28.
The Tigers scored three plays later on a 14-yard pass from Trevor Lawrence to Tee Higgins and then Tanner Muse picked off Wake quarterback Jamie Newman on the next play from scrimmage at the Deacons’ 41. The Tigers needed just four play to take advantage of the turnover as running back Travis Etienne ran up the middle for a 14-yard touchdown for a 14-0 lead with 9:55 to play in the first quarter.
However, the Tigers did very little after those two easy scores, adding just a 35-yard Potter field goal with 8:45 to play in the second quarter for a 17-3 lead. Clemson was just 1-5 on third down during that span and Lawrence was sacked two times.
While Clemson’s offense sputtered at times, the defense was just as dominant as it has been all year. The Tigers held Wake to 54 total yards. The Deacons finished the first 30 minutes just 1-7 on third down. They had five tackles for loss and one sack as well.
Newman, who leads the ACC in passing yards per game, was intercepted twice and was just 4-9 for 26 yards and was picked off twice in the first half.
Higgins, who scored three first half touchdowns, caught his second touchdown of the game with 42 seconds left in the half when he hauled in a 14-yard pass from Lawrence in the left corner of the end zone.
After A.J. Terrell intercepted Newman on Wake’s next drive, Clemson wasted little time to take advantage as Lawrence found Higgins for a third time down the middle of the field for a 30-yard touchdown with 13 seconds left in the half.
Higgins had 4 catches for 64 yards to go with his three touchdowns, while Etienne rushed for 109 yards on 11 carries. Lawrence finished the half 14-18 for 158 yards and three touchdowns.
Amari Rodgers and Justyn Ross both left the game with injuries and will not return in the second half.