From Bad to Worse

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - An already disappointing season took a big turn for the worse Thursday night at BB&T Field as the Tigers fall to No. 21 Wake Forest 12-7.

The Clemson offense franticly tried to get one more scoring drive Thursday night, but they couldn't do it. With the game on the line and facing a fourth-down-and-20 from his own 29 with 3:42 to play, Cullen Harper's desperation throw to Terrence Ashe was knocked down by Wake Forest's Stanley Arnoux and with it the Tigers' chances of perhaps winning an ACC Championship.

"We just kept saying all we need is one play," Harper said. "All we need is one play, and we will be alight, but we never got that one play."

That only play, however, was made by Wake Forest.

The final numbers will show Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Boldin with 5:28 to play to beat Clemson, 12-7, Thursday night. However, the game was won when Skinner and Boldin connected for a 28-yard gain on a third-and-24 from their own 8-yard line moments before.

The play gave Wake (4-1, 2-0 ACC) more than a first down. It gave it life.

"He was really sharp tonight," Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe said. "He made the right plays for us and did what we asked him to do."

After struggling to move the ball for more than two quarters against the Clemson defense, Skinner led the newly energized offense down the field after the 28-yard third down play, as he completed back-to-back passes of 9 yards to Chip Brinkman to move the ball to the Clemson 35.

Then on third-and-six from the Clemson 35, Skinner found fullback Kevin Harris in the flats for a 12-yard gain to the Tigers'19. Three plays later, he got the ball to Boldin in the flats and the senior took it in for the game-winning score.

"We got our Riley back tonight," Grobe said in reference to his quarterback's four-interception outing two weeks ago in a loss to Navy.

Skinner finished the game 22-of-34 for 186 yards.

"If we could have maybe stopped their momentum, you know, maybe it would have been different," Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said.

The Demon Deacons 15-play, 78-yard drive took any life Clemson might have had in its dreams of winning an ACC Championship away.

Besides picking up a 19-yard gain on an Xavier Dye pass on fourth-and-17 from their own 20, the Tigers did little after they got the ball back with 5:19 to play as they turned the ball over on downs and Wake ran out the clock.

Clemson (3-3, 1-2) finished the game with 177 total yards after coming off a game in which it managed just 112 yards of offense in the second half in its loss to Maryland.

"We'll go back and we'll study the tape to see exactly why we're making mistakes," Bowden said. "If we have to make personnel changes, we will."

Once a preseason No. 9 team and the flat-out favorites to win the ACC, the Tigers now must try and regroup before the entire season and any other team goals go down the drain.

Bowden doesn't expect his team to quit, and he says he definitely doesn't think that's what happened against Wake Forest.

"Oh, no, I thought we had some life," he said. "It was a pretty close game. They had life and we had life."

The Tigers finally showed life when Harper found Jacoby Ford going across the middle for a 10-yard scoring play with seven seconds left in the third quarter. It gave Clemson a 7-3 lead at the time and hopes that maybe this was its night.

"It's really frustrating to work so hard all week in practice and then we come out here and lose. It is heartbreaking," defensive end Ricky Sapp said.

It was hard to imagine that the Tigers only trailed 3-0 at the break. Wake dominated the first 30 minutes of the game, especially in the first quarter when it held Clemson to minus-3 yards of total offense, while it racked up 120 yards in 21 plays.

The Deacons opened the game with back-to-back drives of 57 and 62 yards. However, the Demon Deacons did not take advantage of either opportunity. After moving the ball to the Clemson 1, the Tigers' Kevin Alexander tackled Josh Adams for a 5-yard loss.

With Swank out of the game, his replacement Shane Popham missed a 25-yard field after holder Ryan McManus dropped the snap. Popham later connected on a 22-yard field goal on the Deacons' next drive. However, Wake Forest found itself with a first-and-goal from the Clemson 5, but Skinner's pass to Jordan Williams was knocked away by Clemson corner Crezdon Butler at the last second.

Popham's field goal made the score 3-0 with 1:23 left in the first quarter.

"The defense played really well today," Bowden said. "They played well enough to win."

The Deacons again moved the ball deep into Clemson territory late in the second quarter, but when Clemson safety Chris Clemons tackled Rich Belton for a 1-yard loss on a third-and-two play from the Clemson 21, Popham missed his second field goal, this time from 39 yards.

"It was time for us to step up to the challenge," defensive back Chris Chancellor said. "We wanted to show everyone that Clemson's defense was for real, but I guess they made more plays than we did."

And that play was a 28-yard pass from Skinner to Boldin.

"We try to get Riley to deliver the ball to the open guy, but when it gets to crunch time, he knows that if he can go to Boldin, then we have a chance," Grobe said. Top Stories