Spiller carries Clemson to win vs. Wake Forest
CLEMSON, S.C. -- C.J. Spiller ran for two touchdowns and Clemson put aside two weeks of turmoil to get back in the ACC's Atlantic Division race with a 38-3 victory over Wake Forest on Saturday.
Spiller had scoring runs of 66 and 14 yards for the Tigers (3-3, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who seemed ready to implode after an unexpected 24-21 loss to Maryland on Oct. 3.
The team held a players only meeting when it returned to campus and an anonymous blog report during the bye week detailed a shouting match at practice between coach Dabo Swinney and offensive coordinator Billy Napier.
Against Wake Forest (4-3, 2-2), though, Clemson showed its resiliency with its best performance of the season.
Freshman quarterback Kyle Parker threw for a score and ran for another. Spiller finished with 106 yards for his 10th career 100-yard game and Clemson's defense sacked ACC pass-efficiency leader Riley Skinner five times.
The Demon Deacons came in the Atlantic Division leader and could've opened up a two-game lead on Clemson. Instead, the six-team group took another crazy turn and kept almost everyone in the race for the league's title game.
Swinney celebrated the year anniversary of taking over the Tigers this week, yet sounded a lot like his old boss, Tommy Bowden, much of the season with his belief the team was a play or two from big success.
That didn't sit well with many Clemson fans, who criticized Swinney and Napier on sports talk radio and Internet message boards. The flashpoint came this week with word of Swinney and Napier's heated exchange.
Both coaches said the incident was overblown, although Swinney did say he intended to "get a piece" of several assistants and players after the team's 2-3 start.
Any controversy was drowned out by Saturday's cheers at Death Valley for Clemson's eight victory over Wake Forest in the past 11 meetings.
Things went Clemson's way from the start. Parker went 4-of-4 on Clemson's first drive, finishing with a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Michael Palmer.
DeAndre McDaniel's interception of Skinner set up a 22-yard field goal by Richard Jackson, who twice missed tying kicks in the fourth quarter against Maryland last time out.
Parker threw a near perfect 51-yard pass to Jacoby Ford to Wake's 5, the Clemson speedster spliting defensive backs Kenny Okoro and Josh Bush to make the catch. Parker ended the series soon afwith a leaping, 3-yard TD run to make it 17-0.
Wake Forest appeared to find its legs as it drove to Clemson's 1. However, a holding penalty forced them to settle for a 28-yard field goal.
Spiller ended any Demon Deacon momentum a play later, bursting untouched through the middle and outracing defenders for a 66-yard touchdown. It was the fifth scoring play of 63 yards or better this season for Spiller and pushed the ACC's all-purpose career yardage leader past 6,000 yards -- a first in league history.
Clemson's defense did its share, too.
Skinner threw for four touchdowns and 360 yards a week ago against Maryland and came into Death Valley the ACC's leader in pass efficiency. The Tigers, though, rattled him throughout.
Defensive lineman Andre Branch crunched Skinner from behind in the second quarter, popping the senior's helmet off.
It was that kind of a day for Wake Forest, which managed only 99 yards in the opening half and finished without a touchdown for the first time in 14 games since a 26-0 loss to Maryland in 2008.
Clemson backup safety Kantrell Brown had be take off the field on a stretcher after a second-quarter kickoff return. Brown, a sophomore, was face down and motionless for several minutes. However, Tigers athletic spokesman Tim Bourret said initial reports from school medical personnel were that Brown would be OK.
2022 Atlantic Coast Conference Standings