Etienne leads No. 4 Clemson past Wake Forest, 63-3
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — It didn’t matter who took the handoffs for No. 4 Clemson. All those long touchdown runs added up to a historic day that would make their late teammate proud.
Three Tigers rushed for at least 125 yards apiece, and the team rolled up 471 yards rushing in a 66-3 rout of Wake Forest on Saturday.
They considered it a fitting tribute to C.J. Fuller, the running back on Clemson’s national title team two years ago who died earlier in the week at age 22.
“That’s what coach (Dabo) Swinney was telling the team: ‘C.J., I promise, was up there proud of his guys running the ball today,” co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “Those guys wanted to honor him in the way that they play, and they did that today.”
It was the first time in school history that Clemson (6-0, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) had three players with at least that many yards apiece, and the first time since 2006 that they three in triple figures. The team rushing total was the program’s best since 1981 and the fourth-best in its history.
Travis Etienne rushed for 167 yards and three touchdowns, Lyn-J Dixon rushed for 163 yards and two scores, and Adam Choice had 128 yards and a TD. Etienne scored on runs of 59, 3 and 70 yards while Dixon had touchdown runs of 65 and 52 yards, and Choice had a 64-yard TD run.
“Offensively, man, I’m so pleased with our ability to run the football,” Swinney said. “That’s what every team dreams of being able to do.”
Trevor Lawrence was 20 of 25 for 175 yards with a 55-yard touchdown pass to Justyn Ross and a 20-yarder to Tee Higgins in about 2 1/2 quarters before leaving with the score out of hand. This was the freshman’s second start, and first on the road.
They helped the Tigers open with six victories for the fourth straight year. In each of the previous three seasons they did it, they won the ACC and reached the College Football Playoff.
And not to be outdone, the defense was just as dominant, making this arguably the Tigers’ most complete performance thus far. When Clemson went up 35-0 just 75 seconds into the third quarter, Wake Forest had minus-2 yards rushing.
Sam Hartman was 7 for 20 for 74 yards with an interception, and Nick Sciba kicked a 25-yard field goal for Wake Forest (3-3, 0-2), which has lost three of four with the lone victory coming against Rice.
Clemson: It’s been a while since the Tigers ran wild like this. Not since James Davis (143 yards), C.J. Spiller (127) and Demerick Chancellor (113) against Louisiana Tech 12 years ago had three Clemson players cracked the 100-yard mark. They entered with three 60-yard plays on the season — then doubled that total against Wake Forest. Not surprisingly, they were never in danger of another scare like Syracuse gave them last week .
Wake Forest: Big plays were once again a big problem, with the Demon Deacons — who had allowed 11 touchdowns of 20 or more yards in the first five games before giving up six more against Clemson. They fell to 0-3 against power-conference opponents, and for the second time in 15 days gave up more than half a hundred points against a top-10 team at home. No. 8 Notre Dame routed the Deacons 56-27 on Sept. 22.
“Well, that was just a good, old-fashioned butt-whipping,” coach Dave Clawson said.
Twice in the past few weeks, the Tigers slipped a spot in the national rankings despite winning. That doesn’t figure to happen this time, not with Clemson hanging such a dominant score on an ACC team’s home field.
The one Clemson rusher who didn’t join in on the fun was Tavien Feaster, who had four yards on three carries but was held out as a precaution because he was dealing with a shoulder injury. “I don’t think it was anything too serious, but I think the way that the game was going, we didn’t feel like we had to put him back in,” Scott said.
Add another couple of lines to Hunter Renfrow’s resume — punter and quarterback. The receiver had a 42-yard punt with about 4½ minutes left in this one. He also took over at quarterback for the Tigers’ final run-out-the-clock series and had a 2-yard hot-potato pass to motion man Will Swinney, the son of the Tigers’ head coach. “He’s kind of been our backup punter forever on the road,” Dabo Swinney said. “That was good experience for him.”
This was Clemson’s best rushing performance as a team since gaining 536 yards in an 82-24 rout of Wake Forest in 1981. … The 63 points were the most by an opponent at BB&T Field, surpassing the 59 scored by Jameis Winston and Florida State in 2013.
Clemson: Has a week off before a critical Atlantic Division matchup with No. 23 North Carolina State on Oct. 20.
Wake Forest: Also is idle next weekend, and will visit Florida State on Oct. 20.