WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Nate Wiggins broke up Sam Hartman’s fourth-down pass in the end zone to help No. 5 Clemson hold off No. 21 Wake Forest 51-45 in double overtime on Saturday.
Wiggins had been targeted frequently by Hartman and the Wake Forest receivers but came through to knock away Hartman’s final ball for A.T. Perry. He fell to the end zone turf, then sprung up to join his team in celebration after a wild shootout between the reigning Atlantic Coast Conference’s Atlantic Division Demon Deacons and the preseason league favorite Tigers.
“We’ll get this defense fixed,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said on the ESPN postgame interview. “But man, this offense … all the big plays, they never flinched. That’s what it’s all about. I’m just really proud of them. they grew up a little bit tonight.”
D.J. Uiagalelei threw for 375 yards and five touchdowns to lead Clemson (4-0, 2-0 ACC), including the go-ahead score over the middle to Davis Allen to start the second overtime. The Tigers also came up with a few key plays defensively at big moments late to take some pressure off an injury-battered secondary, including Tyler Davis teaming with linemate Myles Murphy to sack Hartman on a potentially winning Wake Forest drive that had neared midfield late in regulation.
Hartman threw for 337 yards and a program-record six touchdowns for Wake Forest (3-1, 0-1), including two each to Jahmal Banks and Donavon Greene. But the Demon Deacons stalled out near midfield on a potential winning drive to end regulation, then couldn’t stop the Tigers in the first OT after starting off with Hartman’s TD throw to Perry.
It marked Clemson’s 14th straight win in the series, with Wake Forest’s last win coming in 2008 — which led to the ouster of Tommy Bowden as coach and Swinney being named the interim.
Clemson: This was the start of a two-week stretch that could give the Tigers control of the league’s Atlantic Division race. The Tigers took early control by scoring touchdowns on their first two drives to take a 14-0 lead, only to see the Demon Deacons’ high-scoring offense get rolling by pushing the ball downfield. On this day, Uiagalelei and the offense had to keep coming up with big plays to stay on pace – and they did – until Wiggins helped the Tigers come up with the clinching stop.
Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons have accomplished plenty under Dave Clawson, highlighted by last year’s push to tie the program record with 11 wins and reach the ACC championship game. But Clemson continues to bedevil them, with Wake Forest last winning in 2008 and only one of the previous 13 straight losses coming by fewer than 14 points. Wake Forest also fell to 1-65 all-time against teams ranked in the top 10 of The Associated Press college football poll, with the only win coming against No. 4 Tennessee in 1946.
The Tigers are near the top of the AP Top 25 with little room to climb despite a tough road win. The Demon Deacons aren’t likely to slide much, if at all, after giving the Tigers all they could handle.
Clemson: The Tigers host No. 12 North Carolina State next Saturday in another critical division game.
Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons travel to Florida State next Saturday.
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