Tigers overpower Wake; QB Bryant injured
CLEMSON -- The No. 2 Clemson Tigers (6-0, 4-0 ACC) celebrated homecoming with a 28-14 victory over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-2, 1-2 ACC) in front of a sea of orange Saturday.
That celebration was slowed after starting quarterback Kelly Bryant was injured in the third quarter, which led to backup quarterback Zerrick Cooper entering the game. But it was third-string quarterback and true freshman Hunter Johnson who seized the moment.
On Johnson’s first drive of the game, he led the Tigers on a 4-play, 32-yard drive that culminated with Johnson finding Cannon Smith for a 13-yard touchdown pass.
The Demon Deacons finally broke through in the fourth quarter for their only score of the day as Kendall Hinton found Scotty Washington for a 16-yard touchdown pass and added another late touchdown as Hinton found Cam Serigne in the end zone.
The Tigers jumped in front of the Demon Deacons early and remained there for the game. They needed only six plays on their opening drive to cover 47 yards before Bryant found Deon Cain from 28 yards out to put the Tigers in front. Clemson got the ball back after a Demon Deacon three-and-out and 12 plays later, Adam Choice found the end zone and gave the Tigers a quick 14-0 lead.
The Demon Deacons attempted to answer on their next series as a 43-yard pass and 15-yard facemask penalty gave the Demon Deacons the ball at the Tigers’ 13-yard line. But the 34-yard field goal attempt by Mike Weaver sailed wide right.
The Tigers had their own troubles in the kicking game as their next drive ended on Alex Spence’s 48-yard missed field goal.
After the two teams combined for five punts and a Bryant fumble, the Tigers offense looked for a spark. Punter Will Spiers found Cornell Powell for a 5-yard pass completion on fourth-and-4 that gave the Tigers a first down at the Wake Forest 49-yard line. The Tigers were not able to turn the trick play into points.
Following a Clemson punt return of 23 yards by Ray-Ray McCloud to the Clemson 48-yard line, the Demon Deacons intercepted Bryant’s pass on third-and-8. Bryant’s second turnover of the day, gave Wake Forest the ball at their own 36-yard line.
The Wake Forest offense moved the ball to the Clemson 22-yard line before a sack by Clelin Ferrell on third-and-6 forced a 50-yard field goal attempt that was no good.
The Tigers scored for the first time since the first quarter midway through the third quarter as a 1-yard touchdown run by Travis Etienne capped a 9-play, 68-yard drive that put the Tigers up 21-0.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE TIGERS: Defense continues to shine.
The Tigers’ defense continued to impress as they held Wake Forest to less than 350 yards of total offense (336) and only 14 points — which came against the Tigers’ second and third string. The Tigers’ defense absorbed two crucial turnovers by the offense and were able to play behind the line for the majority of the day.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE TIGERS: Kelly Bryant injured.
Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant took a shot to the knee in the third quarter on a touchdown drive that put the Tigers up 21-0. Bryant was unable to return to the game after he tested the knee out on the sidelines with the Clemson training staff.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Kelly Bryant.
Before being forced out of the game, Bryant accounted for 200 yards passing and one touchdown and 39 yards rushing.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME: Austin Bryant.
The junior defensive lineman led the Tigers’ effort as he amassed seven tackles -- including two tackles for loss and one forced fumble.
STAT OF THE GAME: A game of firsts.
In the fourth quarter, quarterback Hunter Johnson and tight end Cannon Smith both had significant firsts on the same play. Johnson recorded his first career touchdown pass and Smith his first touchdown reception on the same play.
UP NEXT: The Tigers travel to Syracuse for a Friday night (7 p.m., ESPN) game against the Orange.