CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Cade Klubnik and Will Shipley ran for touchdowns and Clemson’s defense held Wake Forest in check throughout a 17-12 victory over the Demon Deacons on Saturday that gave coach Dabo Swinney a program record-tying 165th career win.
It was far from a pretty performance on a picture-perfect day. Still, Clemson (4-2, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) won its 15th straight over Wake Forest (3-2, 0-2) and posted a second-straight league win after its 0-2 ACC start knocked the defending conference champs out of contention to repeat.
Swinney matched the mark of the late Hall of Famer Frank Howard, who won 165 games in 30 seasons from 1940-69. Clemson’s current coach gets his first chance to move in front when the Tigers head to No. 17 Miami on Oct. 21.
Clemson’s defense showed out strong with a goal line stand in the first half after Wake Forest recovered a fumble at the Tigers’ 9. The Demon Deacons had just 239 yards.
Shipley’s 1-yard touchdown run with 5:49 to play made things more comfortable. But the Tigers will have to show much more on offense if they hope to escape South Florida with a win in a couple of weeks.
Clemson lost two fumbles, missed a field goal and finished with 338 yards, its fewest of the season. The 17 points were the least in a win since beating Syracuse 17-14 in 2021.
The offense’s most effective drive came in the second quarter, a 75-yard scoring sequence where Klubnik completed eight of nine throws for 73 yards. He ended it with a nifty fake in the back field that sprung him for a 7-yard touchdown run and a 7-3 lead.
Jonathan Weitz, called back from his online grad studies in Charleston last month to shore up the kicking game, added a 26-yard field goal before Shipley’s clinching score.
Wake Forest rallied on Demond Claiborne’s 3-yard scoring run with 1:34 to go. But the Demon Deacons failed on the two-point conversion. Clemson recovered an onsides kick and ran out the clock.
Clemson came into this one an almost three-touchdown favorite, yet could barely get out of its own way on offense much of the day.
Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons had their chances with two fumble recoveries inside Clemson territory. But quarterback Mitch Griffis misfired on third and fourth downs from Clemson’s 2. They reached the Clemson 20 after picking up a muffed punt and managed just a 39-yard field goal by Matthew Dennis.
Clemson: The Tigers won’t put this offensive showing on display. Klubnik appeared to make forward progress the past two weeks against Florida State and Syracuse before struggling in this one. He completed 18 of 28 throws for just 131 yards.
Wake Forest heads to Virginia Tech on Saturday.
Clemson has a bye week before going to No. 17 Miami on Oct. 21