CLEMSON FOOTBALL: Behind enemy lines with Wake Forest
When the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-1, 1-1 ACC) head into Clemson’s Death Valley Saturday (noon, ESPN2), they will do so with a confidence that has not been felt within the program since the 2007 season in which they finished 11-1 and went on to face the Louisville Cardinals in the Orange Bowl.
After falling just short of knocking off Florida State a week ago, as the Seminoles rallied to score a touchdown with less than a minute to play in the game, Wake head coach Dave Clawson understands that the job only gets tougher this week as they face the No. 2 Clemson Tigers (5-0, 3-0 ACC).
However painful last week’s game was for the Demon Deacons, they must turn their full attention to the Tigers — who are playing elite football.
“We need to bounce back after a tough, hard-fought loss against Florida State. I thought our kids played their heart out,” Clawson said. “Certainly, looking forward to this week to get back on the field, but Clemson right now is playing at an extremely high level. Probably as well as anybody in the country, and you know, just a credit to Coach Swinney and his staff.
“I think collectively as a team, they are playing probably as well as any point they did last year. Right now, they have a good chemistry going. They are playing at an extremely high level in all facets of the game. I think collectively as a team, they are playing probably as well as any point they did last year. Right now, they have a good chemistry going. They are playing at an extremely high level in all facets of the game.”
Wake Forest on offense
The Demon Deacons’ offense is led by senior quarterback John Wolford, who through the first five games of the season has thrown eight touchdown passes with just one interception.
Not known for being a scoring machine, the 2017 Wake Forest offense has bucked that trend. Through the first five games, the offense has scored 170 points to mark the second-highest point total in school history.
As impressive as the Demon Deacons have been through the first five games, the level of competition will reach a whole new level this week when they take on a Clemson defense that is not only playing dominant football — they are scoring as well.
“On defense, they are just incredible,” Clawson said. “I’m sure there’s a lot of guys playing for Clemson right now that will be playing on Sundays, and it starts with their defensive line. I mean, those two tackles, Lawrence and Wilkins, are all conference players. I think their ends are incredibly athletic. I mean, Ferrell is a great pass rusher and Austin Bryant makes some very athletic plays. Their linebackers are good and they can cover in the secondary.”
Wake Forest on defense
Defensively Wake Forest is one of the most improved units in the nation, currently leading the country in tackles for loss after amassing 17 in last week’s game against Florida State and are currently ranked 17th in the nation — second in the ACC allowing only 14.4 points pregame -- in scoring defense.
Even with a much-improved defense that boasts five returning starters and 11 letter winners off last year’s squad, the challenge that the Demon Deacons will face Saturday may be the toughest Clawson has seen.
“I think in my four years here, this is as good of a Clemson offensive line as we’ve ever seen,” Clawson said. “These guys are athletic. They are well-coached. They are on the same page. I think that group as much as any group has allowed for their transition at quarterback because they are playing so well. And they have got explosive playmakers. I mean, you know, Hunter Renfrow is an excellent, excellent player. Ray-Ray McCloud is a very, very explosive big playmaker; Deon Cain. There is nobody with them that you can cheat against.
“They go three-deep, Feaster, Fuller and Travis Etienne … averages I think eight, nine, 10 yards a carry. That’s how you score points in bunches is when you’re well protected and you have dynamic skill.”