WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WIS) - The more things change, the more they stay the same.
With the ACC beginning their season, the conference’s champion showed no rust in their first game of the year. Behind a record-setting performance by Trevor Lawrence and a solid effort by the Tigers defense, No. 1 Clemson checked off their first objective of the year by winning the opener 37-13.
“This is a special night,” said Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney. “This is a part of a lot of great games, a lot of openers. Hopefully, I can coach many, many more years, but this is one that I’ll never forget. It was truly special to be a part of it. The focus and the mental toughness that it took to get to this point is special and I’m really proud of our team.”
Clemson struck first against the Demon Deacons. On their second drive, the Tigers marched 92 yards in nine plays. The series was capped with a 2-yard Trevor Lawrence touchdown run with 8:02 left in the opening quarter to make it 7-0.
Lawrence added to the Tigers' lead with his second rushing touchdown of the night. This time, it was a 1-yard touchdown run by the junior that extended the Clemson lead to 14-0.
After one quarter, the Tigers outgained Wake Forest 169-87.
Following a BT Potter field goal in the second quarter, Clemson added to their lead late in the quarter. Lawrence tossed his first touchdown pass of the year -- a 12-yard strike to JC Chalk -- to put Clemson up 24-0. Chalk, the grandson of former Alabama head coach Gene Stallings, comes away with his first career touchdown catch with the Tigers.
To finish the half, Potter booted a 52-yard field goal tying a career long for the former South Pointe High standout to push Dabo Swinney’s team ahead 27-0 at the half.
“I felt like we were in a really good rhythm tonight,” said Lawrence. “We played with great tempo. I think we had 50 plays at halftime, which is pretty impressive. Usually, we’re looking at 70 plays at the end of the game. To have 50 at halftime was pretty good and I felt like our gameplan was well-executed. Our coaches did a great job putting us in situations. For the most part, what they did was kind of what we expected., kind of what we planned for. Obviously, coming off the off-season, you never know what kind of wrinkles will be in there., but for the most part, our coaches did an awesome job of having us ready for what they showed us tonight.”
Clemson finished the half with 353 yards. Of those, Lawrence was responsible for 261 passing yards while going 18-of-23 passing in the first two quarters. He’d finish the night 22-of-28 passing for 351 yards, a passing touchdown, and two rushing scores. Lawrence set records for passing yards and total offense (327 yards) in a season opener for Clemson.
Nick Sciba gets Wake Forest on the board early in the third quarter with a 39-yard field goal, but the Tigers would just keep rolling.
With 10:38 to go in the frame, Travis Etienne finally cashed in for Clemson. The senior scored his first rushing touchdown of the year on a 2-yard run to cap a 6-play, 75-scoring drive making it 34-3 Clemson.
Etienne finished with 102 rushing yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. He now has 18 career 100-yard rushing games, which breaks a record once held by Wayne Gallman.
Potter added a third field goal in the third quarter to push the Tigers ahead 37-3.
With this win, Clemson is now 11-1 in season openers under Swinney. Clemson (1-0) now sets its sights on their home opener against The Citadel at 4 p.m. on Sept. 19.