WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. Clemson entered Saturday’s game at Wake Forest with an opportunity to earn trophies in three consecutive games with three wins.
The Tigers are 1-for-1.
Clemson (10-1, 7-1) raced out to a 28-0 lead over the Demon Deacons (6-5, 3-4) en route to a 35-13 victory at BB&T Field. With the win, the Tigers clinch the ACC Atlantic Division title, as well as a spot in the ACC Championship Game.
Clemson will host South Carolina next week with the unofficial state title on the line before facing the ACC Coastal Division winner, most likely Virginia Tech, in the ACC title game on Dec. 3.
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“We played an outstanding game tonight… Division champs,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said. “That’s the fifth time in eight years. I’m just so thankful for not just this team but all the teams we had over the past eight years that helped us build a good foundation of consistency and excellence in everything that we do.”
The win came a week after Pitt handed Clemson its first regular season loss since 2014.
The Tigers allowed 43 points and turned the ball over three times against the Panthers, but Clemson held Wake Forest to 13 points and did not have an offensive turnover.
“Our guys responded the right way,” Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware said. “We used the entire experience as a stepping stone and not a stepping block… I think that showed tonight.”
Clemson’s first four possessions couldn’t have gone any better. Wayne Gallman scored on a 42-yard run on the opening drive before quarterback Deshaun Watson followed with a 3-yard touchdown run.
Watson then found Mike Williams for a 15-yard touchdown before rushing for his second score of the day on the Tigers’ next possession.
Clemson led 28-0 with 12:44 remaining in the second quarter and appeared on its way to an easy win before Wake Forest rallied to make it a two-score game.
The Demon Deacons scored 13 consecutive points on a pair of field goals by Mike Weaver and a 1-yard touchdown run by Cade Carney to cut the lead to 28-13 midway through the third quarter.
The Tigers put the game away on Gallman’s 1-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. Clemson went seven drives in a row without points before Gallman’s score to push the lead to 22 points.
Gallman rushed for 161 yards and two touchdowns while setting the Clemson record for 100-yard rushing games with the 16th of his career.
“He just keeps plugging away. He enjoys playing the game. He’s a pleasure to coach,” running backs coach Tony Elliott said. “We wouldn’t be in the position we are without Wayne Gallman.”
Watson finished 23 of 33 passing for 202 yards and three total touchdowns.
The Tigers defense was also formidable. Clemson held Wake Forest to less than 200 yards of total offense and allowed only 70 rushing yards.
Linebacker Kendall Joseph led the way for the Tigers with seven tackles, including two tackles for loss.
“That was all Ben and the d-line,” Joseph said. “They freed it up for me and I was able to run free and make the plays.
With the win, Clemson produced the program’s sixth consecutive 10-win season. The program had seven total prior to Dabo Swinney’s appointment as coach in 2008.
Wake Forest had a chance to cut the Clemson lead to 28-17 midway through the third quarter but settled for a field goal after back-to-back drops on second down and third down from the Clemson 5.
Star of the game: Gallman: He has had a relatively quiet season but put together his best game of the year with 161 yards and a pair of touchdowns while averaging 7.3 yards per carry.
Play of the game: Gallman set the tone early with a 42-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1 on Clemson’s first possession.
Stat of the game: 2.0: Wake Forest had 36 carries for 71 yards for an average of less than 2 yards per carry.
Clemson did what it needed to do: The Tigers weren’t overly impressive after a hot start but didn’t need to be. All Clemson needs to do to get in the playoff is win out. No style points are necessary.
OL was outstanding: After struggling to open up holes last week against Pitt, the offensive line allowed no sacks and paved the way for the Tigers to rush for 254 yards.
Who: South Carolina at Clemson
When: Saturday, Nov. 26