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Brent Venables' defense set the tone immediately in Clemson's dominating 48-27 win over Wake Forest on Saturday. 

On the Demon Deacons very first play from scrimmage, James Skalski sacked Sam Hartman, dropping the quarterback for a six-yard loss. It was the first of seven sacks on the day for the Tigers, four of which came in the first quarter, preventing the high-powered Wake offense from getting into an early rhythm.

"Obviously, you want to affect the quarterback," Venables said after the win. "We were able to get a lot of pushback and guys we're winning one on ones. We wanted to start faster. You make them uncomfortable early, that affects them to some degree. Still made some plays, but you gotta believe that that fueled us, certainly as a unit and certainly as a team."

The win moves Clemson to 8-3 overall, 6-2 in conference play, and keeps the team alive in the race for the ACC Atlantic Division. The Tigers will now go into the final weekend of the regular season needing a Boston College win over Wake Forest and a North Carolina win over NC State.

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Facing a must-win situation, in their final home game of the season, the Tigers played their most complete game of the season, according to Venables. Something the longtime defensive coordinator said was a credit to the team's dedication and their never-give-up attitude.

"Today was a great day, probably the best we've played as a football team, I think that goes without saying," Venables said. "That's what it looks like. Been close all year, what the offense has been able to do, despite all those guys down. I just felt so bad for them, just wounded and that's a hard place to be. And then inexperienced. So for them to be playing their best football at the end of the year, man that's what it's about. To watch guys get better, never give up, continue to believe, and today that was a clinic on complementary football."

Venables also credited the crowd for playing a part in containing the Wake Forest offense, saying the energy in the stadium helped fuel the Tigers from the opening snap, while at the same time making it difficult for the Demon Deacon offense.to communicate.

"Talked a lot about getting the crowd, something to cheer about, getting them excited," Venables said. "Bringing the intensity, emotion, passion, and who we are as from a home-field advantage. And man, they were awesome today. They effected... I don't know how many false starts they had, but they had a bunch of those. Just very hard for them to communicate and our players feed off that energy."

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