Dave Clawson has spent the last nine years pulling Wake Forest out of the depths of the ACC.
That task culminated for the Demon Deacons’ head coach last season when Wake Forest achieved the first top-10 ranking in program history and won the first Atlantic Division championship of Clawson’s tenure, just the second-ever in school history.
But there were a couple of bumps in the road along Wake’s ride to the top, none more jarring than a 48-27 loss at Clemson in late November that continued the Demon Deacons’ futility against the Tigers. Clemson is the only Atlantic Division team during Clawson’s tenure that Wake Forest has failed to beat.
In fact, you have to go all the way back to 2008 to find the last time the Demon Deacons knocked off Clemson. At the time, Clawson was the offensive at Tennessee while Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was still a receivers coach on Tommy Bowden’s staff.
The matchup has not only been one-sided but often lopsided since. All but one of Clemson’s wins in the series over the last 13 years has been decided by at least two possessions. The closest margin of defeat for Wake since Clawson took over the program was a 28-14 loss at Clemson in 2017, something the Demon Deacons would like to change on their home field this weekend in a matchup of ranked unbeatens.
“This is the one we haven’t got yet,” Clawson said this week ahead of his team’s rematch with Clemson on Saturday at Truist Stadium. “But there are a lot of teams that have’t gotten them because they haven’t lost a lot of games.”
While Wake Forest has spent the better part of the last decade fighting for respectability in the ACC, Clemson has been the benchmark for the Demon Deacons and everyone else. The Tigers have won two national championships during that time, made four other College Football Playoff appearances and had won seven ACC titles in 10 years before Wake kept the Tigers from getting back to the championship game last season.
With all-conference quarterback Sam Hartman back at the controls of what’s been one of the nation’s more prolific offenses over the last two seasons, Clawson said he believes this year’s Wake team is one of the best he’s had in his nine seasons at the helm. Clawson’s team will try to show that against what he believes is still the standard bearer in the league.
“Clemson, in our conference for the greater part of the last six, seven, eight years, has represented excellence and been the gold standard,” Clawson said. “It’s a game that we haven’t played well, and there’s different reasons for it. But the bottom line is we haven’t played well against them.
“I just want to go out Saturday, and I want our team to play at the level we’re capable of. That’s what I want us to do.”
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