WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Clemson found itself mired in a tight game against the one opponent it always seems to blow out.
“We just need one guy to make a play and get this thing rolling,” offensive coordinator Chad Morris said.
Artavis Scott took care of that.
The freshman receiver took a touch pass from Cole Stoudt 68 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 10:53 left, and that helped the No. 19 Tigers pull away to beat Wake Forest 34-20 on Thursday night.
Stoudt finished 27 of 42 for 282 yards with three touchdowns — two to Scott, one to Wayne Gallman — and Gallman added a late rushing score to help the Tigers (7-2, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference, No. 21 CFP) win their sixth straight.
“We’ve got three (games) left and we need to be our best in the month of November,” coach Dabo Swinney said. “That’s when good teams kind of separate from the pack.”
John Wolford was 11 of 29 with two touchdown passes to Cam Serigne, covering 4 and 14 yards, for Wake Forest (2-7, 0-5).
Mike Weaver tied it twice with field goals, including a 31-yarder that made it 20-all with 11:08 left.
On Clemson’s next play, Scott came in motion while Stoudt took the snap and tapped it forward. The freshman caught it and weaved through the right side and into the end zone.
“It was so big just to get that monkey off our back,” Scott said. “I feel people have been nagging us, and it felt great to just go out there and get stuff done.”
Clemson’s No. 2-ranked defense forced a three-and-out and Gallman made it a two-score game for the first time with his touchdown run with 6:36 left.
The Tigers outgained Wake Forest 427-119. The Demon Deacons, who have the worst rushing offense in the Bowl Subdivision, managed just 7 yards on the ground — Wolford was sacked five times — while losing their fifth in a row.
“Every time we play an ACC-level defense, we just cannot run the ball,” Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said. “We just get overwhelmed up front.”
Gallman rushed for 106 yards — his second straight 100-yard outing — and Scott had 122 yards receiving.
“You saw the explosiveness back in our offense that we hadn’t had,” Swinney said. “They’re kind of growing up and blossoming right before our eyes.”
Stoudt went the distance under center for the Tigers while injured freshman Deshaun Watson sat out his third straight game with a broken bone in his throwing hand.
Watson was in uniform and spent most of the night wearing an earpiece after Swinney said earlier in the week that he could play but probably wouldn’t unless Clemson needed him.
Swinney said he approached Watson about possibly playing in the third quarter after Stoudt tweaked his left shoulder, and the freshman said he was ready before Stoudt “gutted it out.”
The plan is for Watson to start next week against Georgia Tech.
“Our goal was to try to not play him if we could,” Swinney said. “He’ll be ready to go come Monday.”
Clemson, a three-touchdown favorite, had beaten Wake Forest by at least 20 points four times since 2008 but at no point did this one seem nearly that easy.
“Proud that our guys battled. Proud that we were in position to win that game in the fourth quarter,” Clawson said. “They made the plays to win the game. And we didn’t make plays that we had a chance to make that could have won the game for us.”
The Demon Deacons, donning shiny new gold-chrome helmets, kept things interesting during a largely disjointed night in which each team essentially gifted a touchdown to the other one with a special-teams miscue.
“It was a weird game,” Swinney said.
The first half ended on a hands-to-the-face penalty on Clemson on the final snap. That gave Wake Forest a free play, and the Demon Deacons turned into Weaver’s career-long 50-yard field goal that tied it at 17.
Wolford’s first touchdown pass to Serigne, covering 4 yards, came four plays after the quarterback caught a 24-yard pass on a trick play. Those two hooked up again from 14 yards out after Clemson’s Matt Humphries muffed a wind-blown punt deep inside Tigers territory.
Two of Stoudt’s TD passes came before halftime, with his 18-yarder to Gallman coming after Wake Forest punter Alex Kinal fielded a long snap with his knee on the turf at his own 23. His first score to Scott covered 4 yards, came with 27 seconds before the break and gave the Tigers a 17-14 lead that disappeared after Tavaris Barnes’ untimely personal-foul flag.
Ammon Lakip kicked two field goals, including a 39-yarder into a stiff wind on the opening drive of the second half to give Clemson a 20-17 lead.
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