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DJ Uiagalelei stars as No. 5 Clemson outlasts No. 21 Wake Forest in two overtimes

Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei looks to pass as Wake Forest defensive lineman Jasheen Davis grabs his leg Sept. 24, 2022.
Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei looks to pass as Wake Forest defensive lineman Jasheen Davis grabs his leg. Uiagalelei, a former Bellflower St. John Bosco standout, threw for 375 yards and five touchdowns.
(Chuck Burton / Associated Press)

DJ Uiagalelei kept delivering the ball on target downfield for No. 5 Clemson in a shootout against No. 21 Wake Forest.

That offered enough cover for a defense that struggled for stops — right up until finally coming up with the winning play to cap a double-overtime classic.

Nate Wiggins broke up Sam Hartman’s fourth-down pass in the end zone to help the Tigers hold off the Demon Deacons 51-45 on Saturday. It marked Clemson’s 14th consecutive win in the series, this one coming in a tense road game pairing two of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s top teams.

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Uiagalelei, a former Bellflower St. John Bosco standout, threw for 375 yards and five touchdowns to lead Clemson (4-0, 2-0 ACC), including the go-ahead score over the middle to Davis Allen to start the second overtime.

“Honestly, man, that was a crazy game,” Uiagalelei said, adding: “You could just see the heart of our team — the heart of the offense, the heart of the defense. When plays had to be made, we made the plays. That just shows a great sign of a good football team.”

The Bruins dominated from start to finish, with Charbonnet scoring three touchdowns and Laiatu Latu leading a smothering defensive effort.

Or, at the least, plenty of perseverance — particularly for Wiggins.

He had been targeted frequently by Hartman and the Wake Forest receivers but came through to knock away Hartman’s final ball for A.T. Perry. He fell to the end-zone turf, then sprung up to join his team in celebration.

Clemson cornerback Nate Wiggins (20) knocks down a pass intended for Wake Forest's A.T. Perry (9) on Sept. 24, 2022.
Clemson cornerback Nate Wiggins (20) breaks up a pass intended for Wake Forest wide receiver A.T. Perry (9) to clinch the victory.
(Chuck Burton / Associated Press)

Before that stop, Wiggins had been flagged for pass interference three times in an injury-battered secondary and was beaten on Donavon Greene’s 25-yard touchdown haul.

“The only good thing about the game [defensively] is we gave up six touchdown passes — we didn’t give up seven,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said with a chuckle. “That’s the only good thing I can say. And they never quit and they kept battling and they played one more play — and Nate came up with it right there at the end.”

Hartman threw for 337 yards and the six touchdowns to set a program record for Wake Forest (3-1, 0-1), including two each to Greene and Jahmal Banks. But the Demon Deacons stalled near midfield on a potential winning drive to end regulation, then couldn’t stop the Tigers in the first overtime after starting off with Hartman’s touchdown throw to Perry.

“That locker room right now is hurting,” Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said. “It’s a football team that has invested a lot, and they care a lot and expected to win this game.”

USC has suffered some notable road upsets against Oregon State over the years, but the Trojans are determined to stay unbeaten in the Lincoln Riley era.

This was the start of a two-week stretch that could give Clemson control of the ACC’s Atlantic Division race. The Tigers took early control by scoring touchdowns on their first two drives to grab a 14-0 lead, only to see the Demon Deacons’ high-scoring offense get rolling by pushing the ball downfield. On this day, the Uiagalelei-led offense had to keep coming up with big plays to stay on pace — and did.

The Demon Deacons have accomplished plenty under Clawson, highlighted by last year’s push to tie the program record with 11 wins to reach the ACC championship game. But Clemson continues to bedevil them, with Wake Forest last winning in 2008 and only one of the previous 13 straight losses coming by fewer than 14 points. Wake Forest also fell to 1-65 all time against teams ranked in the top 10 of the Associated Press college football poll, with the only win coming against No. 4 Tennessee in 1946.

Clemson hosts No. 12 North Carolina State next Saturday in another critical division game. Wake Forest travels to Florida State next Saturday.


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