Field level media
Fifth-ranked Clemson has struggled to defend the pass this season and figures to see plenty of balls in the air when it takes on No. 21 Wake Forest on Saturday in the Atlantic Coast Conference in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Clemson is looking for its 14th straight win over the Demon Deacons, a streak that began with a 12-7 road loss in 2008. But the pass defense may need to improve to keep the streak alive.
The Tigers (3-0, 1-0 ACC) are allowing just 14 points per game but are 86th in the nation in passing defense at 244.7 yards per game. Meanwhile, Wake Forest (3-0, 0-0) has the 10th-most passing yards in ACC history in Sam Hartman.
Clemson standout KJ Henry, a Winston-Salem native, says more defensive players need to step up.
“We’ve had a few guys (injured) or whatever, but we’re going to play a lot of great teams and we’re going to have to replace a lot of people,” Henry told reporters. “And I think one of the best parts of our team and this defense is our depth. So just making sure that when one guy comes in and the other guy goes out, the standard stays the same.”
People also read…
Hartman became Wake Forest’s all-time passing leader (9,891) in last week’s 37-36 home win over Liberty. He passed Riley Skinner (9,762 from 2006-09).
Hartman completed 26 of 44 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns against Liberty. But he also had two interceptions and was fumbled on several other throws.
“We’ve seen it before in his career,” Demon Deacons coach Dave Clawson said of the fifth-year junior. “If he falters a little bit, he usually recovers… He kind of pulls himself together and gets back to the moment. He does not disappoint.”
Wake Forest is averaging 42 points per game, with their other wins coming against VMI and Vanderbilt.
Clemson has defeated Georgia Tech and Furman to open the campaign and is coming off a 48-20 victory over Louisiana Tech last week. The Tigers are averaging 41.7 points per game.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney isn’t too keen on making a big deal about his team’s undefeated start.
“I don’t think anybody knows who that is now after three ball games,” Sweeney said. “I know the rankings and all that – we’re anywhere, a top-5 team, but it’s all based on past success. At the moment, it really is. And it’s great, if you want, to have some street cred. You’ve got to go, to earn. So that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Tigers running back Will Shipley got off to a good start, rushing for 249 yards and six touchdowns. Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei threw for 662 yards, five touchdowns and one interception.
Clemson is also expected to return standout quarterback Brian Brezzi. He missed the Louisiana Tech game after his 15-year-old sister, Ella, died of brain cancer two days earlier.
Wake Forest is allowing 23.7 points per game and is getting solid play from safety Malik Mustafa, who leads the team with 21 tackles and two forced fumbles.
Clawson said the Demon Deacons are better defensively this season despite allowing 36 points to the Liberty.
“We did a lot of good things,” Clawson said. “It’s never all good and it’s never all bad.”
Last season, the Tigers posted 332 yards on the ground in a 48-27 win over visiting Wake Forest, including 111 and two scores from Shipley. Hartman passed for 312 yards, one touchdown and one interception for the Demon Deacons.