The word used the most in Clemson’s defensive postgame press conference? Uncomfortable.
That was Clemson’s goal coming into Saturday’s game. And even though Sam Hartman threw for over 300 yards, the Tigers rattled Wake’s redshirt sophomore quarterback. In the ground game, Hartman was credited with 14 rushing attempts and -37 yards.
Clemson set the tone early. The Tigers recorded a season-high seven sacks, including four in the first quarter. The first play from scrimmage was a sack.
Clemson’s seven sacks were its most in a game since recording eight sacks at Syracuse in 2019.
“Obviously you want to affect the quarterback and we were able to get a lot of pushback and guys were winning one on ones,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said following Clemson’s 48-27 win over Wake Forest. “We wanted to start faster. They have a very rhythmic offense. They’ve had great, great success…you go on the road, you’re playing in a hostile environment and you make them uncomfortable early. That affects them to some degree.”
It certainly affected Hartman, who took an absolute beating all afternoon.
“A big thing we wanted to do this week was making sure he was uncomfortable in the pocket,” Etinosa Reuben told reporters. “He’s had a really great season throwing the ball and making plays, so that was one thing we wanted to do, make sure he was uncomfortable and that he was never able to set his feet and get a good throw off. I feel like we did a good job doing that.”
The redshirt sophomore defensive tackle recorded his first career full sack in the first quarter. He finished the game with a career-high two sacks.
“The way we conduct our defense, we do so many unique things in so many different ways that it’s hard to know where things are going to be coming from,” he said. “So, it’s like you’re always guessing if you’re on offense.”
Wake Forest’s mesh concept often keeps opposing defenses guessing, but Venables had his defense prepared and ready to go. The defense forced three turnovers on the afternoon and held the Deacs to just 36 rushing yards on 31 carries.
While it wasn’t Clemson’s most complete defensive effort of the season, it’s the one they needed to have against one of the nation’s most potent scoring attacks.