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Clemson Football

Gameday 101: Clemson defense vs. Wake Forest

November 27, 2019

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I’m starting to run out of words for this Clemson defense. Dominant. Smothering. Suffocating. Stifling. You can pick the one you like best, and any of them will fit. Here’s what they did to the Demon Deacons last weekend. 

-The Tigers continue to force turnovers at critical times. One play after scoring a touchdown, Clemson safety Tanner Muse got an interception on the Wake Forest sideline and set the Tigers up at the Wake 41, where the offense would cash in with a touchdown. Then right before the half, Wake tried to make something happen and took a deep shot at Clemson corner A.J. Terrell. Terrell read it all the way, tracking the ball and turning for an easy interception and return to the Wake 30, where the Tigers would strike once again just one play later. 

-Speaking of Tanner Muse, how about that for a senior day? The sometimes maligned safety turned in one of the best games of his career with four solo tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack and an interception. He’s turned into a reliable player in the secondary, and his versatility has been a nice weapon this season. Perhaps his most emphatic play of the game came in the second quarter, where the Tigers went man to man across the board and sent Muse on a delayed blitz right up the middle. He flew in and crushed quarterback Jamie Newman for a loss of nine yards, ending the Demon Deacons’ drive. 

-Wake Forest has an unusual rushing attack. They run a read-option but have a prolonged, drawn-out delivery. The idea behind it is that the linebackers can’t come downhill, because they might pull the ball out and throw at any second. The problem with it? If you have a guy like Xavier Thomas on the edge who will just come in and attack it at the mesh point and blow it up before it starts. That happened multiple times, and Wake was never really able to get their strategy to work. 

Speaking of Tanner Muse, how about that for a senior day? The sometimes maligned safety turned in one of the best games of his career with four solo tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack and an interception.

-The Tigers had no fear of the Wake Forest passing attack. In any third and long situation, the Tigers went man-to-man and brought pressure, and the Deacons had no answer. The result was a lot of quick, ineffective passes and a whole lot of failed third downs. 

-We try to find one “teachable” moment in every game. Honestly, there wasn’t really one. The longest play the Tigers gave up on the day was just 10 yards, and the three points given up was not the defense’s fault. 

-It wasn’t the defense’s fault because punter Will Spiers dropped the snap on a punt attempt in the first quarter, tried to pick it up, dropped it again and ultimately lost 21 yards back to the Clemson 28. From there, Wake Forest managed to gain 16 yards and kick a 30-yard field goal for their only points of the game.

-The rest of the special teams were pretty good, though! B.T. Potter hit his one field goal attempt from 35 yards out, and Amari Rodgers had a significant 53-yard return on a punt where he absolutely bowled over poor Dom Maggio, the punter for Wake Forest.

Was Wake Forest missing two receivers? Yes. Did that stunt their game plan? Absolutely. But Clemson held a typically high flying Wake Forest offense to just 105 total yards and three points. That is insane. We’ll see if they can replicate the effort this weekend against South Carolina, and we’ll have the breakdown next week. 

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Gameday 101: Clemson defense vs. Wake Forest

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