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A little different: the Deacs do battle with the Clemson Tigers

Preview: Clemson Tigers vs Wake Forest Demon Deacons

It's a little different.

Given the pandemic, our coverage of college football, including the season opener, is a little different compared to last year (from on-site to online). By the same token, with conferences across the board either not playing this year or working on a delayed (and adjusted) schedule, there are some unknowns.

However, as best as possible, the games go on; with the ESPN GameDay crew in attendance, in this case, the ACC opener for both the #1 ranked Clemson Tigers and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons is about getting off to as sound a start as possible in pursuit of their respective team goals.

The Tigers, a mainstay with 5 consecutive appearances in the national championship playoff (including 2 titles), are coming into this season still thinking about their 42-25 loss in last season's title game against the LSU Tigers. Even with three starters unavailable for tonight's game (cornerbacks Derion Kendrick and Mario Goodrich, along with defensive end Justin Foster), with key leaders Trevor Lawrence (quarterback) and Travis Etienne (running back), the sense of "unfinished business" is fresh on their minds.

Meanwhile, the Deacs are coming off their 4th consecutive bowl game appearance (winning 3 of the 4 bowl games). Even with key losses on offense, including last season's starting quarterback (Jaime Newman, who would transfer to Georgia and opt out to prepare for the NFL Draft) and 5 of their 6 leading receivers, led by Sage Surratt (who opted out and is preparing for the NFL Draft), Scotty Washington, and Kendall Hinton, key players Sam Hartman (their 2018 starting quarterback and 2020 team captain) and receiver Donavon Greene are focused on pacing the office. The team defense features 9 returning starters led by team captain and All-American defensive end Carlos "Boogie" Basham, Jr; complimented by special teams All-American (place-kicker) Nick Sciba, they enter the game with high hopes.

First Half Highlights: Clemson Tigers vs Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Wake Forest wins the coin toss and defers (to the 2nd half).

On the opening drive of the season, Boogie Basham (DE) makes his presence felt with a key sack on Trevor Lawrence. However, Lawrence gets the team in gear on the Tigers' second drive with key completions to Amari Rodgers mixed in with solid runs by Etienne results in a 9-play 92 yard scoring drive capped off by a 2-yard touchdown run by Lawrence to take a 7-0 lead (8:02, 1st quarter). On their next drive, the Tigers keep the offensive momentum going. Key plays by Braden Galloway (25-yard reception) and Etienne (a key 29-yard run) sets up another touchdown run by Lawrence (1-yard) to make it a 14-0 score (2:31, 1st quarter). Wake responds with a 7-play drive which features a 39-yard completion from Hartman to Greene, but Sciba's field goal attempt is blocked to end the 1st quarter.

At the 10:54 mark of the 2nd quarter, a field goal by Clemson's B.T. Potter makes it a 17-0 game. While Wake shows some flashes on offense, they aren't able to sustain a drive, including a key 3rd down where wide receiver A.T. Perry separates for what could have been a big play, but he is unable to corral the pass. After getting a reprieve, Lawrence moves the Tigers on a 10-play, 91-yard scoring drive; a 21-yard completion to Frank Ladson and a 16-yard play to Joseph Ngata are key plays which setup Lawrence's first touchdown pass of the game, a 12-yard completion to J.C. Chalk to make it a 24-0 game. After another stand by the defense, Clemson closes out the half with a 52-yard field goal by B.T. Potter to close out the half with a 27-0 lead.

Clemson's offense out-gains Wake's by a 353 to 113 margin. Lawrence's 261 passing yards (18/23 with a touchdown pass) combined with Etienne's 94 rushing yards lead the Clemson offense. Hartman's 100 yards passing (7/14) and Greene's 76 receiving yards lead the Deacs, but with the rushing attack held at bay (15 carries for 13 yards), along with the Tigers' ability to control the clock (19:06 vs 10:54 in 1st half time of possession), the team goes into the half focused on making some important adjustments.

Second half highlights: Clemson Tigers vs Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Wake opens up the 2nd half with renewed energy.

A big 3rd down completion by Hartman to Jaquarii Roberson results in a 55-yard reception to get the Deacs in Clemson territory. Even though their offense would get no further than the Clemson 21-yard line, Nick Sciba's 39-yard field goal gets the team on the scoreboard (27-3 at the 13:21 mark of the 3rd quarter).

On the subsequent possession, Clemson marches down the field in less then 3 minutes on a 6-play drive (75 yards). A key 21-yard reception by Rodgers sets up Etienne for a 2-yard touchdown run, extending the lead to 34-3 (10:38 mark of the 3rd quarter). After the defense thwarts Wake's offense, Lawrence marches the offense downfield. Davis Allen's 42-yard reception is a key play that leads to a 29-yard field goal by Potter to make it a 37-3 game (3:14 mark of the 3rd quarter).

A field goal by Wake's Nick Sciba (42-yards) at the 7:20 mark of the 4th quarter makes it a 37-6 game. An interception by the Deacs' defensive back AJ Williams is the first turnover committed by either team; as a result, a late drive led by true freshman quarterback Mitch Griffis ends in a 1-yard touchdown pass to Taylor Morin (2:34 mark of the 4th quarter), making it a 37-13 score.

Game takeaways: Clemson Tigers defeat the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (37-13)

Team-wise, Clemson amassed 561 total yards of offense compared to Wake's 330 yards. The Tigers won the time of possession battle (34:44 to 25:01) to control the game; a by-product of controlling the clock is the major advantage in the run game (46 carries for 185 yards). In comparison, the Deacs gained 37 rushing yards on 34 attempts.

The Clemson defense produced 6 sacks, making it difficult for the Wake Forest offense.

Penalty and turnover-wise, both teams played a solid game; Clemson is flagged 5 times for 55 yards, while Wake commits 1 penalty for a loss of 5 yards. Likewise, both teams combined commit 1 turnover.

Individually, Clemson's Trevor Lawrence passes for 351 yards and a touchdown (completing 22 of 28 passes) and adds 2 rushing touchdowns. Travis Etienne adds 102 rushing yards and a touchdown (averaging 6 yards per carry), and receivers Amari Rodgers and Brandon Galloway combine for 150 receiving yards. Wake's Sam Hartman contributes 182 passing yards, and Taylor Morin (9 receptions for 93 yards and a touchdown), Jaquarii Roberson (92 receiving yards), and Donavon Greene (76 receiving yards) lead the Deacons' offense.

Clemson's (1-0, 1-0) next game is September 19th (4pm kickoff) at home against The Citadel. Wake Forest (0-1, 0-1) looks to rebound against Big 4 and in-state rival NC State in Raleigh, NC, on September 19th (8pm kickoff).

Photo credits: The photos are a combination from the ACC Media Portal (*), ESPN (**), and Andrew Snorton (***).

The photo sequence is as follows:

  1. Sam Hartman (Wake Forest quarterback).*

  2. Carlos "Boogie" Basham, Jr (Wake Forest defensive end) making a sack of Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.*

  3. Clemson running back Travis Etienne collecting a few of his 102 rushing yards.*

  4. Wake Forest's Donavon Greene making a reception.*

  5. The Clemson Tigers on offense.*

  6. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence scoring on one of his two rushing touchdowns.*

  7. ESPN's College GameDay making a stop on the campus of Wake Forest University.**

  8. Wake Forest alum and NBA superstar Chris Paul on ESPN's College GameDay.***

  9. Clemson's offense celebrating with quarterback Trevor Lawrence after scoring a touchdown.*

  10. Clemson's Travis Etienne (running back) on the move.*


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