Skinner leads No. 21 Wake past Clemson, 12-7
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP)—Riley Skinner and Wake Forest have played two ACC games and managed just one touchdown. It came just in time to help the Demon Deacons beat another Bowden.
Skinner threw a 7-yard scoring pass to D.J. Boldin with 5:28 left to lead No. 21 Wake Forest past Clemson 12-7 on Thursday night.
He completed 22 of 34 passes for 186 yards, added 74 more yards rushing and led the decisive 15-play, 78-yard drive in the fourth quarter for the Demon Deacons (4-1, 2-0).
The only Atlantic Division team with a perfect conference record won its first two league games for the first time since 1987, but had to go through the ACC’s first family to do it. After topping Bobby Bowden’s Florida State team on four field goals, they took out son Tommy’s Tigers with a dominant defense and some opportunistic play from the quarterback coming off a five-turnover performance against Navy.
“It’s just a testament to our defense. The thing is, though, once you look at our yards—we’re moving the ball,” Skinner said. “It’s not like we can’t move the ball at all. We’re just driving and shooting ourselves in the foot when it gets inside the red zone. … It’s not like our plays are bad. We’re just not capitalizing.”
Shane Popham—starting in place of injured kicker Sam Swank—had field goals of 22 and 32 yards for Wake Forest, and a dominant defense held the Tigers’ vaunted ground game to 21 yards rushing on 23 carries. The Demon Deacons outgained Clemson 342-198 to snap a two-game losing streak in the series.
“This is a game that, me personally, I’ve wanted for a long time,” Skinner said.
Cullen Harper was 15-of-35 for 177 yards with an interception for Clemson (3-3, 1-2). The league’s preseason favorites lost their second straight and are one of three ACC teams with multiple conference losses.
“Our backs are against the wall right now big time,” Harper said. “There’s either two things we can do—we can either quit and lay down, or we can come out swinging (next week) against Georgia Tech.”
Harper’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Ford with 7 seconds left in the third quarter put Clemson up 7-3.
Alphonso Smith’s school-record-tying 17th career interception gave Wake Forest the ball inside the Clemson 20 and set up Popham’s second field goal, which pulled Wake Forest to 7-6 with just under 13 minutes to play.
Then, after forcing a punt, it was time for Skinner to rally the Demon Deacons.
Taking over with about 10 1/2 minutes left, he systematically marched Wake Forest downfield by completing seven of nine passes for 69 yards and converting three third downs—including a 28-yard pass to Boldin on third-and-24.
“We got our Riley Skinner back tonight,” coach Jim Grobe said.
He then found Boldin in the right flat, and the receiver cut back through two defenders and into the end zone for his first career touchdown. Skinner’s 2-point conversion pass for Ben Wooster was batted away.
On its last possession, Clemson got no farther than its own 39, and linebacker Stanley Arnoux broke up Harper’s fourth-and-20 pass with about 3 1/2 minutes left to seal Grobe’s third win over the Tigers in eight tries.
“They just generated that one drive,” Bowden said. “We kept hoping we could generate one drive to win the game. Wake Forest did it. We didn’t.”
Instead, the Tigers’ offense sputtered once again. They had minus-6 yards rushing at halftime, were stuck in negative total yardage until their fifth drive of the game and were just 2-of-14 on third downs.
Star James Davis finished with 25 yards, 50 below his average, while backfield mate C.J. Spiller had just 10 yards on two carries before injuring his left leg in the second quarter. Those two struggled in the Tigers’ other losses, combining for 20 yards in the opening loss to Alabama and gaining a total 31 yards in the second half of the Maryland defeat.
“That’s like holding the Patriots,” Smith said.
With the ground game struggling, Clemson’s offense couldn’t generate any big plays until the final moments of the third quarter, with Harper taking advantage of a pass-interference penalty on Chip Vaughn to convert his first third down.
Then, he temporarily putting the Tigers ahead by finding Ford over the middle. The track star juggled the ball before pulling it in as he crossed the goal line for their only score.
This one probably should have been even more lopsided for Wake Forest.
The Demon Deacons had plenty of early chances to take a comfortable lead, driving inside the Clemson 5 on its first two possessions and then moving to the 22 on its final full series of the second quarter, but couldn’t punch it in. Ryan McManus had trouble with the hold on Popham’s 25-yard field goal, and Popham was badly wide right on a 39-yard attempt 1:48 before the half.
“You wonder if you’ll ever get a chance to make that up,” Grobe said. “Offensively, we just did enough to get the job done.”