Clemson started off this game red hot, scoring two touchdowns in the first three possessions. Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant threw a 28 yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Deon Cain and on the next scoring possession, running back Adam Choice powered into the end zone for a four yard touchdown run. In the early going, it looked like Clemson was putting this game out of reach, but the Wake Forest defense helped keep them in the game.
Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford, who had been the starter all season, did not play in this game, as he was dealing with a left shoulder injury. Sophomore quarterback Kendall Hinton made his fourth college football career start. The surprising part is that nobody on the Clemson staff, or team knew he was going to start.
Head coach Dabo Swinney said after the game, “ I didn't know, we had no idea, what happened to him (Wolford)? Is he is he hurt? I didn't know the injury report so I didn't know, kept under wraps pretty good, I gotta learn that tactic, I didn't know until the first play. Where’s number 10? That number 2 is a good player, he made a lot plays, a bunch of plays, we had no idea.”
At the end first quarter, the game became very sloppy as both teams struggled in the kicking game. Demons Deacons kicker Mike Weaver, who had yet to miss a field goal this season, missed two today. Wake Forest had several chances to put points on the board, but missed two field goals from 34 and 50 yards out. Clemson would also miss one field goal of their own, a 43 yarder. It was a back and forth affair filled with three outs and turnovers committed by both teams until midway through the third quarter.
In the third quarter, Clemson regained the momentum back after they converted a 4th and 3, a play in where Bryant completed a 29 yard pass to wide receiver Hunter Renfrow. This game Clemson the ball at the Wake Forrest 10 yard line and a first down. The Tigers scored three plays later on a three yard touchdown run from running back Travis Etienne. Clemson tight end Cannon Smith spoke about the momentum shift. “They were big downs, keep the chains moving and giving our defense a break so they don't have to uh to be on the field so much, be able to move the chains and keep the momentum in our favor. It’s always huge thing they we can do.”
Clemson freshman QB Zerrick Cooper took over for Bryant towards the end of the third quarter, as Bryant appeared to have a left ankle injury. Both teams from then on were playing their backup quarterbacks the rest of the game. Clemson also played their third string quarterback in Hunter Johnson and he threw 13 yard touchdown pass to Smith to bring the score to 28-0. Wake Forest did not go down without fight as they responded with two touchdowns to try to stay in the game. Hinton threw a 16 yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Scotty Washington and an 11 yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Cam Serine to bring the score to 28-14. It was too late by then as Wake Forest failed to convert an onside kick and Clemson won their 20th straight victory against ACC opponents.
Clemson managed to win a sloppy, but hard fought game against a Wake Forest team that is improving, but is not yet fully ready to take on the higher ranked teams. Inconsistent offense play was a key issue for Clemson in this game. Renfrow spoke after the game about consistency. “The biggest thing for us is consistency, I’m saying it’s a good treat to have, but sometimes it kicks us in some areas, and we need to come out hot, we know we need to score and we know right before halftime we need to score, 4th quarter we know gotta play well, we need to be consistent one thought four.”
Bryant completed 21 of 29 passes for 200 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Hinton completed 14 of 30 passes for 203yards, two touchdowns and 92 rushing yards. Clemson running back Travis Etienne had 15 carries for 67 yards and a touchdown, Cain had four receptions for 38 yards and touchdown. Renfrew finished with six receptions for 61 yards and Wake Forest star wide receiver Greg Dortch had five receptions for 98 yards.
Wake Forest has now lost two straight games in the ACC and 9th straight to Clemson., Clemson improves to 6-0 overall, 4-0 in the ACC, while Wake Forest falls to 4-2 overall, 1-2 in the ACC. The Bryant injury will be very important to monitor and watch in the following days. If he cannot play next game, Clemson has two strong backup quarterback options. Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford hopes to be back for the next game as well, as he will be evaluated in the following days. Clemson will have a short week as they prepare to take on the Syracuse Orange on Friday, October 13th on ESPN and look to stay undefeated. Wake Forest will have a bye week next weekend as they looked to rest up and hopefully get back on the right track when they will face Georgia Tech on October 21st.