Clemson-Wake Forest Preview

Clemson’s powerful offense has bailed out a suspect defense

numerous times this season. However, a better defensive effort in

their last game has the Tigers hoping that won’t have to be the

case quite as often.

Clemson seeks its fourth straight victory over host Wake Forest

when the ACC rivals meet Thursday night.

The No. 14 Tigers (6-1, 3-1) are averaging 40.9 points and 492.9

yards per game, and they haven’t scored fewer than 37 points since

a season-opening 26-19 win over Auburn on Sept. 1.

It was the defense, though, that stepped up in a 38-17 victory

over Virginia Tech on Saturday. Clemson had allowed 37.0 points

over its previous three games, but forced four turnovers – two on

interceptions by Jonathan Meeks, who returned one 74 yards for a

touchdown in the second quarter to put the Tigers ahead 17-7.

“We have been growing up as a defense as a whole,” Meeks said.

“(The offense) had our back all season. We had their backs today.

It is a team win.

“It is a quick turnaround to next Thursday, so we have to put

this one behind us right now and turn it over to Wake Forest.”

Defensive coordinator Brent Venables was hired from Oklahoma

after Clemson was embarrassed 70-33 by West Virginia in the Orange

Bowl last season. Improvement has been slow, with the Tigers

ranking 10th in the 12-team ACC with 439.9 yards allowed per

game.

They were slightly better last week, giving up 406 yards.

”You got to go do it again and do it again, that’s what the

season’s about,” Venables said. ”The funnest times I’ve had as a

coach is when I’ve seen great improvement from the beginning of the

year until the end.”

The better defensive performance last week was timely, as the

offense gained only 295 yards – the Tigers’ lowest total since they

had 260 against North Carolina State on Nov. 6, 2010.

Tajh Boyd went 12 of 21 for 160 yards – 131.3 below his average

coming into the game – with a touchdown and an interception. He did

have a pair of 1-yard rushing TDs while Andre Ellington carried 19

times for 96 yards and a 12-yard score.

Boyd threw for 343 yards and two touchdowns while Ellington

scored twice as Clemson beat Wake Forest 31-28 on Nov. 12, its

third straight victory in the series.

The Tigers scored 17 unanswered points over the final 16 1/2

minutes of that contest, culminating in Chandler Catanzaro’s

43-yard field goal as time expired.

The Demon Deacons (4-3, 2-3) will look to end their skid against

the Tigers after halting their three-game conference losing streak

with a 16-10 victory over Virginia on Saturday.

Wake Forest had dropped three of four overall, but the defense

forced three turnovers and held the Cavaliers to 48 yards

rushing.

That helped compensate for an offense that totaled 213 yards –

the team’s fewest in an ACC victory since gaining 191 against North

Carolina on Oct. 22, 1966.

“I guess this is resilience,” defensive back Chibulkem Okoro

said. “And that’s what we have to be: resilient. Now we want to

ride this momentum and keep it going.”

Tanner Price went 24 of 37 for 172 yards and a touchdown versus

Clemson last season. While Wake has dropped three straight in the

series, it’s taken three of the last five home matchups.