Clemson’s defense leads way in 17-12 win over Wake Forest

Clemson cornerback Toriano Pride Jr. breaks up a pass intended for Wake Forest wide receiver Wesley Grimes during the Tigers’ 17-12 win Saturday in Clemson, South Carolina. (Jacob Kupferman / AP Photo)

CLEMSON, S.C. — Cade Klubnik and Will Shipley ran for touchdowns and Clemson’s defense held Wake Forest in check throughout a 17-12 victory over the Demon Deacons on Saturday that gave coach Dabo Swinney a program record-tying 165th career win.

It was far from a pretty performance on a picture-perfect day. Still, Clemson (4-2, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) won its 15th straight over Wake Forest (3-2, 0-2) and posted a second-straight league win after its 0-2 ACC start.


Swinney matched the mark of the late Hall of Famer Frank Howard, who won 165 games in 30 seasons from 1940-69. Clemson’s current coach gets his first chance to move in front when the Tigers head to No. 17 Miami on Oct. 21.

Clemson’s defense showed out strong with a goal-line stand in the first half after Wake Forest recovered a fumble at the Tigers’ 9. The Demon Deacons had just 239 yards.

Shipley’s 1-yard touchdown run with 5:49 to play made things more comfortable. But the Tigers will have to show much more on offense if they hope to escape South Florida with a win in a couple of weeks.

Clemson lost two fumbles, missed a field goal and finished with 338 yards, its fewest of the season. The 17 points were the fewest in a win since beating Syracuse 17-14 in 2021.

The offense’s most effective drive came in the second quarter, a 75-yard scoring sequence where Klubnik completed eight of nine throws for 73 yards. He ended it with a nifty fake in the backfield that sprung him for a 7-yard touchdown run and a 7-3 lead.

Jonathan Weitz, called back from his online grad studies in Charleston last month to shore up the kicking game, added a 26-yard field goal before Shipley’s clinching score.

Wake Forest rallied on Demond Claiborne’s 3-yard scoring run with 1:34 to go. But the Demon Deacons failed on the two-point conversion. Clemson recovered an onside kick and ran out the clock.

Clemson came into this one an almost three-touchdown favorite, yet could barely get out of its own way on offense much of the day.

Wake Forest heads to Virginia Tech to face the Hokies next Saturday.