WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Despite trailing numerous times in the second half, Clemson’s offense believed.
Even when Wake Forest continued to inch ahead in the second half and even in the first overtime period, they never flinched. And that’s why even after another uncharacteristic showing from the defense, Clemson was able to walk out of Truist Field with a 51-45 win on Saturday.
“I just talked to them in the locker room about believing and where that belief comes from is their work ethic and their character and their hearts,” offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter said postgame. “That’s really where it came from, and they all agreed, man. The work ethic that these guys had in the summer was unbelievable, everybody was trying to get extra work. It’s neat to be able to comment on that after a win like that because that’s where it shows.”
It showed in the play of D.J. Uiagalelei, who completed 26-of-41 passes for 371 yards and five touchdowns. Even after Clemson punted on consecutive drives to start the second half and Wake Forest took a 28-20 lead, the junior signal-caller never flinched.
Neither did Streeter in his first overtime as a play caller at Clemson.
“It was wild, but I think the key is to show poise as much as you can because you’re teaching that to your guys all the time. “Streeter said. “Talking to them all the time about being physical and nasty and getting after it and attacking, but showing poise is very, very critical. I feel like all the coaches and the players showed poise tonight.”
Behind the play of Uiagalelei, that poise carried over into overtime, as Clemson scored on consecutive drives to secure the win over the Demon Deacons. As the game carried over into a second overtime, Uiagellei was surprisingly “really calm,” according to sophomore receiver Beaux Collins.
That poise went a long way, culminating in a 21-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Davis Allen.
“Those kids kept hanging in there, kept battling, kept believing,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said following the win.
Clemson kept plugging away.
Series after series, the offense kept moving the chains. The Tigers converted on 16-of-23 third downs, which was a program single-game record. And Uiagalelei was at his best when the Tigers needed him in the clutch. He went 9 of 14 for 221 yards on third down, including completions on the last five third downs on which he dropped back to pass.
Overall, the unit gained a total of 559 yards, averaging 6.5 yards per play.
Clemson wasn’t fazed by anything really, according to Collins. They just trusted each other, took care of the football and came out victorious.
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