64F BB&T Field, Winston-Salem, NC
Clemson's powerful offense has bailed out a suspect defense numerous times this season. However, a better defensive effort in their last game has the Tigers hoping that won't have to be the case quite as often.
Clemson seeks its fourth straight victory over host Wake Forest when the ACC rivals meet Thursday night.
The No. 14 Tigers (6-1, 3-1) are averaging 40.9 points and 492.9 yards per game, and they haven't scored fewer than 37 points since a season-opening 26-19 win over Auburn on Sept. 1.
It was the defense, though, that stepped up in a 38-17 victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday. Clemson had allowed 37.0 points over its previous three games, but forced four turnovers - two on interceptions by Jonathan Meeks, who returned one 74 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter to put the Tigers ahead 17-7.
"We have been growing up as a defense as a whole," Meeks said. "(The offense) had our back all season. We had their backs today. It is a team win.
"It is a quick turnaround to next Thursday, so we have to put this one behind us right now and turn it over to Wake Forest."
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables was hired from Oklahoma after Clemson was embarrassed 70-33 by West Virginia in the Orange Bowl last season. Improvement has been slow, with the Tigers ranking 10th in the 12-team ACC with 439.9 yards allowed per game.
They were slightly better last week, giving up 406 yards.
"You got to go do it again and do it again, that's what the season's about," Venables said. "The funnest times I've had as a coach is when I've seen great improvement from the beginning of the year until the end."
The better defensive performance last week was timely, as the offense gained only 295 yards - the Tigers' lowest total since they had 260 against North Carolina State on Nov. 6, 2010.
Tajh Boyd went 12 of 21 for 160 yards - 131.3 below his average coming into the game - with a touchdown and an interception. He did have a pair of 1-yard rushing TDs while Andre Ellington carried 19 times for 96 yards and a 12-yard score.
Boyd threw for 343 yards and two touchdowns while Ellington scored twice as Clemson beat Wake Forest 31-28 on Nov. 12, its third straight victory in the series.
The Tigers scored 17 unanswered points over the final 16 1/2 minutes of that contest, culminating in Chandler Catanzaro's 43-yard field goal as time expired.
The Demon Deacons (4-3, 2-3) will look to end their skid against the Tigers after halting their three-game conference losing streak with a 16-10 victory over Virginia on Saturday.
Wake Forest had dropped three of four overall, but the defense forced three turnovers and held the Cavaliers to 48 yards rushing.
That helped compensate for an offense that totaled 213 yards - the team's fewest in an ACC victory since gaining 191 against North Carolina on Oct. 22, 1966.
"I guess this is resilience," defensive back Chibulkem Okoro said. "And that's what we have to be: resilient. Now we want to ride this momentum and keep it going."
Tanner Price went 24 of 37 for 172 yards and a touchdown versus Clemson last season. While Wake has dropped three straight in the series, it's taken three of the last five home matchups.