CLEMSON, S.C. — Another season, another Clemson victory against Wake Forest.
No. 2 Clemson started quickly and coasted to a 28-14 victory over Wake Forest at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, defeating the Demon Deacons for a ninth consecutive time.
The Tigers (6-0, 4-0 in ACC) haven’t lost to Wake Forest (4-2, 1-2) since Dabo Swinney became Clemson‘s coach midway through the 2008 season.
Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant completed 21 of 29 passes for 200 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game with an ankle injury with six minutes left in the third quarter. Bryant, who suffered a blow to his left ankle during a run, said he’ll receive treatments on the ankle throughout the week, but is initially considered questionable for Friday night’s game at Syracuse.
Wake Forest senior quarterback John Wolford missed the game with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder suffered during last week’s 26-19 loss against Florida State. He was replaced by junior Kendall Hinton, who completed 14 of 30 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for 92 yards on 24 carries.
But Clemson delivered a couple of early body blows, then left it up to its defense to apply the finishes touches.
“This is a really good football team, and we just have to play at a higher level than what we did,” Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said. “We missed too many opportunities early, missed too many tackles, and when we play a team the caliber of Clemson, you aren’t going to beat them.”
Indeed, much of Wake Forest’s success came after Clemson had built a 28-0 lead early in the fourth quarter.
“We were locked in today and got off to a good start,” said Swinney, whose team has won 20 consecutive games against ACC Atlantic Division foes. “We got control of the game early. I didn’t like how we finished, though, but we’re playing a lot of guys and we’re committed to doing that. You have to let them experience growing pains.”
Clemson scored on its first two possessions, driving 75 and 76 yards, respectively, for a 14-0 lead.
Bryant completed 8 of 9 passes on the two drives, including a 28-yard loft into the arms of wide receiver Deon Cain for the first touchdown. It was Cain’s 16th career touchdown reception, but just his second this season and his first since the season opener against Kent State.
The Tigers’ second scoring drive was capped by a 4-yard run by running back Adam Choice.
Clemson outgained the Demon Deacons 385-131 in the first half but led only 14-0.
Wake Forest kicker Mike Weaver, who had converted all 10 of his field goal attempts this season, missed a 34-yarder late in the first quarter, then misfired on a 50-yard attempt early in the third quarter.
Clemson pushed its lead to 21-0 with 7:31 left in the third quarter, driving 68 yards in nine plays for a score, with the big play being a fourth-and-3 completion to wide receiver Hunter Renfrow for a 29-yard gain to the Wake Forest 10-yard line. Bryant suffered his injury two plays later on an 8-yard run.
Freshman running back Travis Etienne strolled in from the 1 two plays later.
Backup quarterback Hunter Johnson went 5 of 5, including a 13-yard touchdown toss to tight end Cannon Smith, to give Clemson a 28-0 lead with 11:48 remaining.
“I’m happy with the win,” Swinney said. “Wake Forest was a tough team to get ready for because they’re so deep and talented. We were locked in early today and one side of the ball was always there to pick the other one up.”
Wake Forest’s first score came when Hinton connected with wide receiver Scotty Washington for a 16-yard touchdown pass with 8:32 left. Hinton later threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Cam Serigne with 2:28 left in the game.
“In the first half, Hinton was a little shaky, because he hadn’t played in a while,” Clawson said.
“In the second half he got his rhythm, found his feet and started feeling comfortable. We got a few drives and moved the football. He played much better in the second half than in the first half, but this is just not a team that you can afford to start slow against.”
NOTES: Clemson LB Dorian O’Daniel has a team-leading 45 tackles, including a team-high five tackles on special teams. … TE Cannon Smith caught his first career touchdown pass with 11:48 left in the game. … S Tanner Muse led Clemson with eight tackles, including a tackle for loss, and also was credited with a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry. … Wake Forest WR Greg Dortch leads the Deacons with 35 catches for 430 yards this season. … WR Scotty Washington’s 16-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter was the first touchdown catch of his career. … S Cameron Glenn led Wake Forest with 11 tackles.