Ken Ruinard / USA TODAY Sports
N.C. Winston-Salem : It was not attractive. It wasn't unattractive. It was truly terrible.
At Truist Field on Saturday, No. 5 Clemson defeated No.21 Due to a great defensive effort, Wake Forest defeated them 51-45 after two overtimes.
Sam Hartman, the Demon Deacons' quarterback, completed 20 of his 29 throws and threw six touchdown passes for 337 of the team's 447 total offensive yards. Clemson's defensive backs also received four pass interference penalties and one personal foul.
"We found a way to win," said a relieved Wes Goodwin, Clemson's defensive coordinator. "Obviously, congratulations to our men. Today, the actual character of this football squad was on display. Just the tenacity, the never-ending effort, playing physical and putting it all on the line."
The Tigers (4-0, 2-0 ACC) won on fourth-and-six from the Clemson 21-yard line when cornerback Nate Wiggins swatted down Hartman's final pass of the afternoon in the Clemson end zone.
"Obviously, it was pretty ugly from a defensive aspect," Goodwin said, "but we found a way to get one more play and win the game."
Goodwin was correct. Clemson's defense stood up and made the necessary plays when it meant the most.
Wake Forest pushed the ball to its own 47 on its final drive of regulation and seemed to be on its way to a game-winning field goal. However, defensive tackle Tyler Davis got through and struck running back Justice Ellison for a three-yard loss on the following play.
Davis then joined up with defensive end Myles Murphy to sack Hartman for a four-yard loss on the next play. Hartman's third-down pass to tight end Blake Whiteheart covered only 12 yards, forcing the Deacons to punt, sending the game into overtime.
Clemson seized a 51-45 lead on a 21-yard touchdown pass from quarterback DJ Uiagalelei to tight end Davis Allen after both teams scored to force a second extra period.
It was now up to the defense to win the game, which they accomplished.
After Davis stopped Ellison for no gain on first down, Hartman's second-down ball was intercepted by Bryan Bresee, prompting Hartman to scramble for four yards on third down. Wake's seasoned quarterback delivered a ball to his best target, wide receiver A.T. Perry, in the Clemson end zone, on fourth-and-six from the Clemson 21. But Wiggins was on there to bat the ball down and secure Clemson's 10th consecutive victory.
"On both of those snaps, we simply went four-man rush and played Cover 2," Goodwin explained. "Those guys up front just gave us an opportunity to go win and generate some rush and things." I was only attempting to put us in the greatest possible pass coverage position.
"Our lads responded by acting out."
Clemson gave up some running yards in the fourth quarter and overtime, but the Tigers played zone defense with their linebackers off the line. For the Clemson defense, it was one of those "choose your poison" situations.
"We switched to playing the run with a little gap, just trying to keep the RPO windows and whatnot at bay," Goodwin explained. "Every time the quarterback puts it in (the mesh), he is looking at that free safety." They'll throw in behind him if he triggers. They're giving it over if he stays high.
"So, that was the adjustment." 'Hey, we're going to force them to hand it up and just be patient.' There were a few runs that went through there, but sometimes you have to give up one to scratch where your head itches."