Clemson’s defense leads way in 17-12 win over Wake Forest, gives Swinney record-tying 165th victory
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Clemson coach Dabo Swinney always felt connected to the late, great Tigers coach Frank Howard.
Both are Alabama natives and Swinney met Howard as a young boy when the longtime coach came to a birthday party for Swinney’s mom.
Now, Swinney’s joined Howard as Clemson’s leader in career victories with 165 after a 17-12 win over Wake Forest on Saturday.
“I don’t think that’s a coincidence,” Swinney said Saturday of his history with Howard.
“Hopefully, I’m here a long time and we win many more games,” Swinney continued. “But Frank Howard is Clemson.”
So far, the 53-year-old Swinney’s made a strong run to overtake that legacy.
It was far from a pretty performance on a picture-perfect day. Still, Clemson (4-2, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) won its 15th straight over Wake Forest (3-2, 0-2) and posted a second-straight league win after its 0-2 ACC start knocked the defending conference champs out of contention to repeat.
Swinney, in his 15th full season and turning 54 next month, matched the mark of Howard, who won 165 games in 30 seasons from 1940-69. Clemson’s current coach gets his first chance to move in front when the Tigers head to No. 17 Miami on Oct. 21.
“We celebrate wins, but when it’s something like (Swinney’s milestone), that just makes it sweeter,” said Shipley, who finished with 97 yards on 19 carries. “So many great things I could say about coach Swinney. He’s a huge reason why I’m where I’m at today.”
Clemson’s defense showed out strong with a goal line stand in the first half after Wake Forest recovered a fumble at the Tigers’ 9. The Demon Deacons had just 239 yards.
“Defensively, it was awesome, freakin’ awesome,” Swinney gushed.
Shipley’s 1-yard touchdown run with 5:49 to play made things more comfortable. But the Tigers will have to show much more on offense if they hope to escape South Florida with a win in a couple of weeks.
Clemson lost two fumbles, missed a field goal and finished with 338 yards, its fewest of the season. The 17 points were the least in a win since beating Syracuse 17-14 in 2021.
The offense’s most effective drive came in the second quarter, a 75-yard scoring sequence where Klubnik completed eight of nine throws for 73 yards. He ended it with a nifty fake in the back field that sprung him for a 7-yard touchdown run and a 7-3 lead.
Jonathan Weitz, called back from his online grad studies in Charleston last month to shore up the kicking game, added a 26-yard field goal before Shipley’s clinching score.
Wake Forest rallied on Demond Claiborne’s 3-yard scoring run with 1:34 to go. But the Demon Deacons failed on the two-point conversion. Clemson recovered an onsides kick and ran out the clock.
Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said his defense played well enough to win. The offense needed to be more effective in order to come out on top.
“It’d be nice to be really good on both sides of the ball in the same year,” said Clawson, in his 10th season at the school.
Clemson came into this one an almost three-touchdown favorite, yet could barely get out of its own way on offense much of the day.
Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons had their chances with two fumble recoveries inside Clemson territory. But quarterback Mitch Griffis misfired on third and fourth downs from Clemson’s 2. They reached the Clemson 20 after picking up a muffed punt and managed just a 39-yard field goal by Matthew Dennis. “We were just inches away,” Griffis said, shaking his head.
Clemson: The Tigers won’t put this offensive showing on display. Klubnik appeared to make forward progress the past two weeks against Florida State and Syracuse before struggling in this one. He completed 18 of 28 throws for just 131 yards.
Clemson leading tackler Jeremiah Trotter Jr. was called for roughing the passer late in the game when it appeared the defense had once more held Wake Forest. The crowd began booing after the replay was shown and Trotter soaked in the sounds. “The refs said it was roughing the passer, I’ve got to keep playing, move on,” he said. “Either way, I let the fans have their own opinion on that.”
Wake Forest heads to Virginia Tech on Saturday.
Clemson has a bye week before going to No. 17 Miami on Oct. 21
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