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Oct 07, 2023

Swinney Ties Howard’s Wins Record as Clemson Outlasts Wake Forest, 17-12


CLEMSON, S.C. – Clemson’s defense set the tone and the running game picked up 207 yards to lead the Tigers (4-2, 2-2 ACC) to a 17-12 win over Wake Forest (3-2, 0-2) at Memorial Stadium on Homecoming. With the win, Head Coach Dabo Swinney earned his 165th career victory to tie College Football Hall of Famer Frank Howard (165 from 1940-69) as the winningest head coach in Clemson history. 

Will Shipley’s touchdown run late in the fourth quarter gave the Tigers some breathing room, and the Tigers recovered an onside kick with 1:34 to play after a Wake Forest touchdown. Phil Mafah ran for 33 yards on the game’s final drive to help Clemson run out the clock to defeat the Demon Deacons for the 15th straight time in the series. 

Clemson’s defense produced eight tackles for loss, four sacks, a fumble recovery and 2.6 yards per rush allowed on 39 carries. Additionally, Clemson allowed only two third down conversions on 12 attempts. The Tigers kept Wake Forest out of the end zone for the first 58 minutes of the game. R.J. Mickens led the defensive unit with nine total tackles, five of which were solo. 

Cade Klubnik completed 18-of-28 passes to total 131 yards and added 48 rushing yards, including a seven-yard touchdown scamper in the first quarter. Shipley led Clemson in rushing yards with 97, including his one-yard touchdown with 5:49 to play to give Clemson a 17-6 advantage. 

Early in the game, a fumble gave Wake Forest the ball on Clemson’s nine-yard line to start Wake Forest’s third drive, but Clemson forced a turnover on downs to hold the Demon Deacons scoreless. Wake Forest would later open the scoring on its next possession with a 35-yard field goal with 2:25 left in the first quarter. 

As part of a 16-play, 7:05 scoring drive in which Clemson converted on fourth and five with a 10-yard completion to Beaux Collins, Klubnik got Clemson in the end zone first with a seven-yard rushing touchdown with 10:18 left in the first half. 

On Wake Forest’s second play of their sixth drive, Khalil Barnes ripped the ball out of Wesley Grimes’ hands. R.J. Mickens recovered the loose ball and returned it 15 yards to the Clemson 38-yard line for the Tigers’ lone takeaway of the game. 

A missed 39-yard field goal from Wake Forest kicker Matthew Dennis as time expired in the second quarter kept the score at 7-3 at halftime. 

Shipley kickstarted the second half with a 21-yard run off Clemson’s first snap. After driving 67 yards, Jonathan Weitz closed the possession with a 25-yard field goal to increase Clemson’s lead to 10-3. Wake Forest responded with a 22-yard field goal of its own with 2:20 left in the third quarter. 

Shipley later bulldozed his way one-yard into the end zone to increase Clemson’s lead to 17-6 with 5:49 left to play. On Wake Forest’s next possession, Demond Claiborne scored the Demon Deacons’ only touchdown of the day on a three-yard run. Clemson stopped Wake Forest’s two-point conversion attempt to keep the score at 17-12 with 1:34 left to play. 

Wide receiver Hamp Greene recovered Wake Forest’s onside kick attempt to give Clemson the ball at Wake Forest’s 44-yard line. Phil Mafah rushed for 33 yards on four carries on Clemson’s final drive to run out the clock and seal the 17-12 victory at home for Clemson. 

Clemson has a midseason open date next week before returning to action on Saturday, Oct. 21, at Miami (Fla.). Clemson’s next home game will be on Saturday, Nov. 4, when the Tigers host the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to start a three-game November homestand. Tickets and gameday experiences for Clemson’s remaining three home games at Memorial Stadium remain available here.