The great escape: the #5 Clemson Tigers survive a double-OT thriller over #21 Wake Forest 51-45
Preview: #5 Clemson Tigers (3-0, 1-0) vs #21 Wake Forest Demon Deacons (3-0, 0-0)
It's been a while since a game with potentially huge division, conference, and potentially national implications has taken place so early in the season, especially for the 21st ranked Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Today's (September 24th) 12pm EST tilt is covered by ABC.
And the 5th ranked Clemson Tigers are coming to town.
With a 13-game winning streak against the Deacons, the Tigers plan on doing more than exploiting Wake's all-time 1-64 record against top-10 opponents, as well as this being among the special occasion at Truist Field of having both teams coming into the game ranked so high. Led by improving play of quarterback DJ Uiagaleli (662 passing yards, a 64.8% completion percentage, along with 5 touchdowns and 1 interception) and lead running back Will Shipley (249 rushing yards, a 7.8 yards per carry average, along with 6 rushing touchdowns), they expect to have an offensive output close to their season average (41.3 points per game). While wide receiver Antonio Williams' (9 receptions for 133 yards and a touchdown) availability is in question, leading receiver Beaux Collins (9 receptions for 158 yards/17.6 yards per catch along with 3 touchdowns) and Joseph Ngata (7 receptions for 105 yards) are expected to take on a bigger role in going against a Wake Forest pass defense allowing 192.7 yards per game. On defense, the Tigers are allowing a solid 14 points per game (and are outscoring teams by 27.3 points per game). Linebacker Trenton Simpson (a team leading 19 tackles), free safety Tyler Venables (16 tackles), and fellow free safety Jalyn Phillips (14 tackles) are among those focus on slowing down a Deacons offense averaging 42 points a game and 434.3 total yards per game.
After last weekend's closely contested game against Liberty (click HERE for our coverage), Wake Forest looks to give the Clemson defense their toughest test of the season. Quarterback Sam Hartman (625 passing yards, a 62.0% completion percentage, along with 7 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in 2 games) leads the team on offense and beyond; leading rusher Christian Turner (149 rushing yards, a 4.8 yards per carry average, and 2 touchdowns) looks to jumpstart the running game to provide offensive balance and difficulties for a Tigers defense (allowing 68.0 yards per game) which has been stout against the run. Wideouts AT Perry (222 receiving yards/18.5 yards per catch along with a touchdown) and Donavon Greene (184 receiving yards/15.3 yards per catch) lead a deep and talented receiver group who looks to challenge the Clemson pass defense (allowing 244.7 yards per game). The Deacs' defense is led by safety Malik Mustapha (a team leading 21 tackles and the team co-leader in sacks with 2), fellow safety Chelen Garnes (18 tackles and an interception), linebacker Ryan Smenda, Jr. (18 tackles in 2 games), and defensive lineman Rondell Bothroyd (2 sacks).
Clearly, today is where the rubber meets the road.
Recap: #5 Clemson (4-0, 1-0) escapes with a 51-45 double-overtime win over #21 Wake Forest (51-45)
While Wake starts with the ball, it's Clemson who gets on the board first (during the 1st quarter).
Will Shipley's 53-yard burst sets up the Tigers' first score of the game. DJ Uiagalelei's 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jake Briningstool gives them a 7-0 lead (8:09 left in the first quarter) and after the defense stalls the Wake offense, nearly 3 minutes later, Uiagalelei's pass is initially deflected by Wake defensive back Gavin Holmes and lands in the hands of Brannon Spector for a 41-yard touchdown to give them a 14-0 lead.
However, in a little less than a minute later, the Deacs would respond with a scoring drive of their own.
Wake quarterback Sam Hartman would deliver a 36-yard touchdown pass to Jahmal Banks to cut the deficit to 14-7.
Even though B.T. Potter's 24-yard field goal (7:49 in the 2nd quarter) would give Clemson a 17-7 lead, Wake Forest's fortitude allows them to stay in the game. Assisted by a bevy of penalties by the Tigers, Hartman would connect with Banks for another touchdown pass (5-yard with 5:49 left in the 2nd quarter) to keep the Deacs within striking distance (trailing 17-14). Clemson would close out the scoring in the half with another field goal by Potter to hold onto a 20-14 halftime lead.
Wake would open with a flurry in the 3rd quarter with consecutive scoring drives.
Donavon Greene's 28-yard reception hits paydirt and gives the Deacs their first lead of the game (21-20) at the 12:13 mark. After a solid defensive stand, Wake would add to their lead as tight end Blake Whiteheart's 19-yard reception gives them a 28-20 lead and puts the sold-out crowd in a frenzy.
The Tigers would snap the Deacons' 14-point run with a scoring drive of their own, as DJ Uiagalelei would lead the offense downfield against the Wake defense. His 5-yard touchdown pass tight end Davis Allen combined with a 2-point conversation by wide receiver Beaux Collins would tie the game at 28 with 4:29 left in the 3rd quarter.
Then it's time for Wake Forest to respond.
A solid drive is capped off by a diving 25-yard reception by Donavon Greene which leads to a perilous crash into the brick retaining wall; his ability to get one foot inbounds and hold onto the ball gives Wake the lead with 1:19 left in the 3rd quarter (35-28). However, as is the case in this game, Clemson would respond with a scoring drive capped off by a 1-yard touchdown run by Will Shipley to tie the game at the 11:16 mark of the 4th quarter.
Neither team could quite do much else the rest of the quarter other than match field goals (38-38). This would put the game into overtime a 38.
Wake would get the ball to open the overtime and Sam Hartman would connect with a wide-open AT Perry (on a possible busted coverage) for an 8-yard touchdown pass to give the Deacs a 45-38 lead. It would be short-lived as a matching 21-yard reception for a touchdown by Beaux Collins would tie the game.
In the 2nd overtime, Clemson would start with the ball; Uiagalelei would connect with Davis Allen on a 21-yard touchdown pass to take a 51-45 lead, but they would not convert the 2-point conversion (per extended overtime rules). Wake would get one last chance, but on a 4th and 6, the pass attempt to AT Perry in the corner of the end zone is broken up by the Clemson secondary, sealing the double-overtime win at (51-45).
Post-game: the #21 Wake Forest Demon Deacons look to regroup heading into next week's game at Florida State
Clearly, this is arguably one of the more somber post-game press conferences we've done. Even the press box is silent given the outcome of the game.
Head Coach Dave Clawson speaks to the competitive level both teams play with, including how much improved Wake is compared to last year's game at Clemson (a 48-27 loss). Even in noting some positives, he notes how the team expects to win each time they are on the field, and while disappointed with the outcome, they are making sure they operate in the mindset of being 1-0 every week. Center Michael Jurgens notes he's proud of how the team maintains its focus after being down 14-0, but he admits being disappointed in the outcome. Defensive tackle Kobie Turner fields our question about a positive takeway from the game as the team's fight and grit puts others on notice they come prepared to play (the same with linebacker Chase Jones).
Clemson holds the advantage in total offense (559 to 447) and time of possession (37:34 to 22:26), but given their 10 penalties for 120 yards (compared to 3 for 45 yards for Wake), the game sets up for extended play given the double-overtime (as well as neither team committing a turnover). Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei (26 for 41 with 371 passing yards along with 5 touchdowns), Will Shipley (20 carries for 104 yards with a touchdown), Jake Briningstool (6 receptions for 72 yards with a touchdown), and Davis Allen (4 receptions for 36 yards and 2 touchdowns) lead the Clemson offense. On defense, Trenton Simpson (8 tackles), defensive end KJ Henry (8 tackles), and defensive tackle Tyler Davis (6 tackles with 1.5 sacks, half the team's total for the game ) lead the Tiger effort.
Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman (20 for 29 with 337 passing yards and 6 touchdowns), Justice Ellison (21 carries for 73 yards), Jahmal Banks (6 receptions for 141 yards and 2 touchdowns, giving him 4 touchdowns in his last 2 games), and Donavon Greene (2 receptions for 53 yards, with both going for touchdowns) lead the offense, as they score more points against Clemson today (45) than what they allowed coming into today's game (42). Linebacker Chase Jones (9 tackles), linebacker Ryan Smenda, Jr. (9 tackles), and safety Chelen Garnes (8 tackles) provide the push for the defense (click HERE for the complete stats)
The Clemson Tigers are scheduled for another tough division tilt as they host #12 NC State (3-0, 0-0 coming into today's action). Likewise, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons have a challenging road game against an upstart Florida State team (3-0, 1-0 coming into today's games) at Tallahassee, FL.
Today, one team escapes with a win, while the other looks to rebound quickly as next weekend is another difficult test in the ACC Atlantic Division.
Notes: All video and photos are recorded by Andrew Snorton.
Video: The three videos (in order) include the Deacon Walk as the team walks among the fans and alumni, their formal entrance on the field, and other pre-game and first half snapshots.
Photos (from left to right and top to bottom): The first row shows the Deacon Walk as the team makes its way through the crowd, along with some pre-game activity. The second row provides a snapshot of the Spirit of the Old Gold and Black (Wake Forest Marching Band) and the student section clearly hyped for today's game against the #5 Clemson Tigers. The third row provides another "hype" moment with the Demon Deacon and former player (and Wake alum) Quintin Williams riding in to lead the players. The fourth row is a snapshot of the Tigers' sideline and Wake wideout Donavon Greene (who contributes 2 receptions for 53 yards as both go for touchdowns). The fifth row is a snapshot of Clemson quarterback DJ Ulagalelei (who goes 26 for 41 with 371 passing yards and 5 touchdowns) and Wake head coach Dave Clawson highly engaged in the flow of the game. The sixth row features Tigers' running back Will Shipley (who has 20 carries for 104 yards and touchdown) along with Ulagalelei. The seventh (bottom) row Wake lining up on defense against Clemson wideout Joseph Ngata (who has 4 receptions for 84 yards) and the Wake Women's Tennis team being recognized for their winning accomplishments this season.