Saturday’s matchup of 5th ranked Clemson and 16th ranked Wake Forest at Truist Field in Winston-Salem turned into just the kind of heavyweight fight the ACC hoped it would. One haymaker after another was delivered without either team knocking out the other. And it was the Tigers’ ability to deflect the Demon Deacons’ last swing that gave them the 51-45 double-overtime victory, their 14th straight win in the series.
Clemson’s secondary was torched all afternoon long by Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman. The Oceanside Collegiate product threw a school record six touchdown passes. And when he wasn’t hitting open receivers, Clemson’s defensive backs were hitting them early, or holding them. They drew seven penalties on the day.
But the last play of the game turned out to be a gem of a defensive play by Nate Wiggins. On fourth and six, Hartman lofted a pass to the left side of the end zone. Wiggins positioned himself inside receiver A.T. Perry and knocked the ball away. The Clemson sidelined emptied into the end zone to celebrate their nation’s best 10th straight win and their 70th in this series.
There was a lot of ground covered between the two offenses from the game’s opening play, an eight-yard Hartman completion, to that final one. Clemson finished with 559 yards to 447 for Wake Forest, but the Deacons also picked up another 120 yards in Clemson penalties.
Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei had one of his finest days completing 26 of 41 for 371 yards and 5 touchdowns. He also rushed for 52 yards. Eight different receivers caught passes with Jake Briningstool leading the way with 6 for 72 yards and a touchdown. And Will Shipley rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown.
Hartman was equally impressive going 20-29 for 337 yards and a school record 6 touchdowns.
Clemson scored on their first two possessions but eventually fell behind 28-20 in the third quarter. The teams exchanged touchdowns until it was 35-35 in the fourth quarter. A Wake Forest field goal made it 38-35 with 8:07 to play. Four minutes later the Tigers tied it on a 52 yarder by BT Potter.
From there the game rolled into overtime with both teams scoring on their first possessions. The Tigers had the ball to start the second overtime and Uiagalelei connected with Davis Allen on a 21-yard touchdown pass. A two-point conversion pass failed.
The Clemson defense stuffed a running play on the Deacon’s first play of the second overtime. Hartman threw incomplete on second down and gained four yards on third down when flushed out of the pocket. That set the stage for the fourth down play and the big knockdown by Wiggins which turned out to be the knockout punch for the Tigers.
Clemson is now 4-0 and 2-0 in the ACC and will host NC State next Saturday.