CLEMSON | After soaring over a defender and into the end zone, Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker bounced to the sideline, where he received a welcome slap to the helmet then exchanged what he called an "inside joke" with coach Dabo Swinney.
The Tigers scored using the option running play that had spawned last week's spat between Swinney and offensive coordinator Billy Napier.
In practice two weeks ago, Parker pitched the ball to air. As Swinney tells it, he in so many words called Parker "soft." Napier, in coming to his quarterback's defense, got chewed out, too.
But Saturday was different.
"(Parker) came right off the field and said, 'How you like that, coach?'" Swinney said. "Didn't exactly say it as nice as that, but that's the version I'm going to give ya."
The version Clemson (3-3, 2-2 ACC) showcased in Saturday's 38-3 throttling of Wake Forest was the upgrade its fans have aspired to since Swinney's promotion. A blundering defeat at Maryland made for a tumultuous two weeks around Death Valley, but the only boos cascading from Memorial Stadium stands were the result of the Demon Deacons (4-3, 2-2) repeatedly kicking away from C.J. Spiller.
The Tigers forged a 31-3 lead by halftime in mounting their most complete performance this season. Back in the thick of the Atlantic Division race, Clemson has new life headed into this week's showdown at No. 9 Miami.
"They did some good things with their time off," Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe deadpanned.
Swinney contended that Clemson did not invoke any changes to its methodology or playcalling, although there was plenty of statistical and visual evidence to sell the contrary.
Offensive coordinator Billy Napier said the staff conducted a thorough self-scouting report during their bye week. The changes were evident:
Quarterback Kyle Parker was called upon to be a running threat; the passing game featured the tight ends and running backs, and shifted to I-formation looks in short-yardage situations - all tenets that had been promised dating to the preseason.
Clemson did much of its offensive damage on first down, utilizing play-action passing to create lanes for Spiller (106 yards on nine carries).
Consequently, the Tigers' red-zone woes disappeared.
They capitalized on field position generated by Wake Forest's errant opening onside kick with a six-play, 46-yard touchdown drive. They proceeded to notch four touchdowns and one field goal in five red-zone trips - a stark contrast to the unit that entered with two touchdowns in its past 13 quarters.
"You go back to the drawing board with it, and we've got C.J. and Jacoby, but how are we going to get those other guys involved?" Napier said. "But the bottom line is, the players got it done."
The Tigers' defense might have been better than the offense.
After averaging 341 passing yards and three touchdowns the previous four games, Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner was brought back to earth.
Sophomore end Da'Quan Bowers led the charge as Skinner was sacked five times and harassed in numerous others instances, limiting Skinner to 82 passing yards.
Wake Forest failed to produce a drive longer than 45 yards and was held to a season-low 178 yards.
The three points allowed matched Clemson's low mark against an ACC opponent in the past decade, a feat it accomplished twice in that span (last year against Virginia and in 2003 against Georgia Tech).
"There's been a lot of adversity over these last two weeks," Swinney said. "It's always tough when you have an open date after a loss. But we had great practice and preparation.
"And I just kept saying, if you'll play like you practice, we'll overwhelm these guys. And that's what they did."