It took two series for things got rolling for the offense, but once it did, there was no slowing down. Tajh Boyd threw for nearly 300 yards and completed touchdown passes to five different receivers... in the first half. It was also great to see Sammy Watkins get back into the mix, as he too enjoyed a 100-yard receiving effort, his first since the North Carolina game last year. The third quarter was disappointing as Clemson failed to score, but D.J. Howard 1-yard score with less than nine minutes remaining prevented any hopes of a Wake comeback. By the time this one was done, Boyd set the single-game Clemson record for passing yards with 428 and Watkins set the single game receiving yards mark with 202. Wow. A lackluster start to the second half prevents the "A" grade, but it was another strong performance for the offense overall.
The Clemson defense played its best football of the season Thursday night, punishing Wake QB Tanner Price with regularity. For the first time in a long time, the Tigers were also the more dominant team at the line of scrimmage, overmatching the Deacs with speed and athleticism. Tig Willard is making his case to be the defensive MVP, coming through with a big fist-half sack and another tackle for loss. Spencer Shuey continued his strong play as well, even with a costly roughing the quarterback penalty. Wake Forest tried to attack Clemson's cornerbacks early, but found no success. It wouldn't find much more the rest of the night either, outside of two quick scoring drives sandwiched around halftime. This makes the fourth straight game Clemson's defense has shown signs of improvement. There's still plenty of work to do, but this unit is getting better.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
Special teams weren't depended on nearly as much as usual, but they did their job none the less. Clemson's kick coverage teams were outstanding, and whenever Spencer Benton was called upon to punt, he was dependable. Chandler Catanzaro's 20 consecutive field goal streak came to an end as he missed a 48-yarder, but otherwise this group was solid.
After what many fans deemed a lackluster effort in a 21-point beat down of Virginia Tech, the Tigers pounded the Deacs with a 28-point second-quarter outburst. Clemson came out focused, limiting Wake to negative rushing yards in the first half while Tajh Boyd and company did damage through the air. Considering the Tigers had just one win on Thursday night prior to this one, a thumping of this kind feels pretty good and helps erase some of the memories of the last Thursday evening trip here.
It's been a long time since Clemson put together this kind of effort on the road, and what better place to do it than Wake Forest. The fact is, this is how Clemson should play this team every year. The Tigers were dominant on both sides of the ball and can now look ahead to next week's matchup at Duke. The Blue Devils have proven to be a tough out most of the year, but Clemson gets the weekend to see how they respond with a difficult road trip to Tallahassee before heading to Durham next week. With eight games in the book, Clemson is 7-1 and rolling towards the month of November with a truckload of momentum and positive vibes. Not bad.
GRADES: Tigers silence Wake Forest
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