Clemson’s march toward the College Football Playoffs continued with a 52-3 pasting of Wake Forest on Senior Day at Death Valley, Saturday. It was the Tigers 21st consecutive ACC victory and 26th straight win overall. Senior safety Tanner Muse set the tone with multiple impact plays in the first half (sack, two tackles for loss and an interception) to spark the rout.
Trevor Lawrence exited in the 3rd quarter after completing 21 of 27 passes for 272 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. Three of those touchdowns were caught by receiver Tee Higgins. Travis Etienne was similarly unstoppable, rushing for 121 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
For much of the season, it looked as if Wake Forest (7-3) was the second-best team in the conference, even spending some time in the AP Top 25. Whether or not that has held true is up for debate, but what is not in doubt is the gap between Clemson and the rest of the ACC. The Tigers were averaging 45.4 points per game against ACC competition heading into Saturday’s game before dropping 52 on the Demon Deacons.
Wake Forest was averaging more than 35 points per game and among the nation’s best at converting 3rd downs (49%) heading into the game. But Brent Venables’ unit limited the Deacons to just 105 yards and 2 of 13 on 3rd down.
Coach Dabo Swinney recognized how impressive the performance was, “It was a complete game. We created some short fields and when we play complimentary football, we can overwhelm an opponent.” Swinney also singled out the sustained greatness of quarterback Trevor Lawrence, “Trevor has been just amazing. Throwing a for four touchdowns, a career high … He’s just been lights-out.”
Clemson (11-0, 8-0 ACC) will enjoy a bye week before turning its attention to the rivalry game at South Carolina and then the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte.
Here’s my recap from Clemson
Notes from Clemson victory
- Injuries: Wide receivers Amari Rodgers (shoulder) and Justyn Ross (bruised ribs) both left the game with injuries during the first half, but Swinney believes they will both return for the season finale.
- Clemson outgained Wake Forest 516-105.
- The largest statistical divide may have been in 1st downs gained: 26-5 in favor of the Tigers.
- The game was decided before halftime. After the first 30 minutes of game time, Clemson dominated in every major statistical category: Total yds: 268-53; 1st downs: 15-3; yards per play: 6.9-1.9.
- Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne and Tee Higgins did almost all of their work in the first half: Lawrence: 14-19 for 158 yds and 3 TDs. Etienne: 11 carries for 109 yds and 1 TD. Higgins: 4 catches for 64 yds and 3 TDs.
- The Tigers defense was dialed in from the outset, forcing two punts and an interception while limiting the Demon Deacons to 3 yards on their first 3 possessions.
- Missing two of his top targets, Wake Forest quarterback Jamie Newman completed just 6 of 14 passes for 41 yards and 2 interceptions.
- The first two Clemson possessions ended in a 14-yard touchdown pass and a 14-yard touchdown run leading to a 14-point lead.
- Final stats
Dabo Swinney press conference
Co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott
Co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence (on wide receivers stepping up in absence of Justyn Ross and Amari Rodgers)
Running back Travis Etienne (on the performances of wide receiver Tee Higgins and his teammates)