CLEMSON — All hope is not lost in Clemson's quest to win a seventh consecutive ACC championship.
The Tigers stayed alive in the Atlantic Division race by handing No. 10 Wake Forest's its first conference loss of the season with a dominant performance at Memorial Stadium on Saturday in a 48-27 victory.
With all that on the line and seniors being honored in the final home game of 2021, Clemson (8-3, 6-2 ACC) gave an inspired effort on both sides of the ball. The Clemson defense challenged the second highest-scoring offense in the nation, holding Wake to 17 points below its season average.
Despite a stellar season, the Demon Deacons (9-2, 6-1) entered the game as an underdog and still haven't beaten Clemson since 2008. A loss at Boston College next week and an NC State in its last two games against Syracuse this week or UNC next week would put the Tigers back in the ACC title game.
It might end up being moot at the end of next week, but Clemson gave itself that opportunity by posting its highest scoring output in ACC play this season. Against a struggling Wake defense, the Tigers had 543 total yards, scored six touchdowns and got two field goals from B.T. Potter. Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei threw for 208 yards and a touchdown with one interception while Kobe Pace put a career-high in rushing yards.
The Clemson defense made several big plays, sacking Wake quarterback Sam Hartman seven times and forcing three turnovers. Trenton Simpson and Baylon Spector had nine tackles each and Myles Murphy recorded 1.5 sacks.
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Player of the game: Pace had the best game of his Clemson career in his first contest since Nov. 6. The running back returned from injury to rush for 191 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns. He averaged 8 yards per run and found hole after hole in the porous Wake defense.
Key play: Beaux Collins reached out and snagged a deep pass from Uiagalelei with one hand and took it to the house for a 58-yard touchdown that put Clemson up 31-13 with 5:36 left in the third quarter. Collins averaged over 34 yards per catch in the game, thanks to this one that gave the Tigers plenty of breathing room.
Freshman Impact: Will Shipley did a little bit of everything Saturday. The running back rushed for 112 yards on 19 carries, scored twice on the ground, threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Davis Allen and caught one pass for 18 yards.
Stat of the game: Clemson improved to 71-1 under Dabo Swinney when rushing for 200 or more yards in a game. The Tigers had 333 yards on the ground.
Coach's decision: Sitting at the Wake 1-yard line on fourth-and-goal in the first quarter, Swinney opted to go for it, and he chose wisely, calling a handoff to Shipley, who leaped into the end zone for a 10-0 early lead.
Next Up: Clemson wraps up the regular season with its Palmetto State rivalry game against South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia on Nov. 26. The two teams didn't play last season because of the SEC's decision to schedule no non-conference games, but a rivalry that dates back to 1896 renews next week.
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