The Clemson quarterback’s determined 3-yard touchdown gave the Tigers a 17-0 lead over Wake Forest early in the second quarter. More importantly, it displayed the type of attitude that his team hadn’t quite mastered earlier this season.
Parker’s grit obviously flowed rampantly throughout the entire team in
Clemson’s 38-3 thumping Saturday of the Demon Deacons, who entered the game on top of the ACC Atlantic Division.
“That’s very contagious when your quarterback is playing like that,” center Thomas Austin said. “It’s just extra motivation for all of us from the effort he played with.”
Clemson (3-3, 2-2 ACC) knocked Wake (4-3, 2-2) from its solo perch above the division and kept Demon Deacons head coach Jim Grobe winless in four trips to Death Valley. The 35-point differential was the largest in the series since a 55-7 Clemson victory in 2000.
Parker’s 3-yard touchdown was the exact play run in practice that ignited a mini-controversy during the team’s bye-week when reports of internal strife surfaced between head coach Dabo Swinney and offensive coordinator Billy Napier.
Swinney acknowledged after the game that Parker had pitched off last week rather than going hard to the end zone. He called his quarterback “soft” and Napier took up for his player.
After the touchdown Saturday, Parker “came right to me and said, ‘How do you like that, coach?’” Swinney said. “He didn’t exactly say it as nice as that, but that’s the version I’m going to give you. I loved his response.”
His coaches had also admonished Parker to run the ball more and he featured the complete package in the blowout victory.
“I could tell a difference in Kyle’s attitude when we were standing on top of
The Hill,” Austin said. “I mean he was just fiery and really ready to play.”
Parker, who entered the game with 23 rushing yards, ran seven times for 31 yards and also completed 10 of 17 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown (to Michael Palmer that opened the scoring). Parker’s .588 completion percentage was a career-high.
“Everything just seemed to be clicking,” Parker said. “This is how we’re capable of playing. When everybody’s working so well together, it makes everything go so smoothly.”
When things are going that well for Clemson, it usually means top playmakers
C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford are having a big impact and that was certainly the case.
Each made the most of limited touches as Wake Forest was adamant about not allowing either speedster to burn them in the return game as both got zero chances.
Spiller had 106 yards on only nine rushes, but he provided one of the game-breaking plays with a 66-yard touchdown burst, untouched up the middle, that increased the lead to 24-3 mere seconds after Wake had scored its lone points.
Both Parker and Spiller laughed as they recounted the quarterback predicting the long touchdown just before it happened, telling Spiller, “just take this one to the house and make it easy on everybody.”
Spiller became the first ACC player in history to top 6,000 career total yards and the long scoring run gave him an astounding 60-yards plus play in each of Clemson’s six games this season.
“It’s too late to change the playbook,” Spiller said. “We didn’t change anything at all. We just executed. This is the Clemson team that should have been playing all year.”
Attempting not to take a backseat to Spiller in the versatility department, it was Ford’s 51-yard reception that helped set up Parker’s touchdown run. Ford would later complete a 32-yard pass to Xavier Dye with Spiller scoring from 14 yards two plays later. It was the first completion by a Clemson receiver since 2003.
“I was impressed with their talent and their coaching staff did a nice job scheme-wise,” Grobe said. “They did some good things with their off time.
“They gave us some things that we didn’t handle well so I was impressed.”
With the offense clicking at a level it hadn’t achieved all year (the Tigers had scored only two touchdowns in their last 13 quarters coming in), the defense was quick to follow suit with a dominating all-around performance.
The Tigers held Wake to 81 rushing yards and 97 passing yards with quarterback Riley Skinner completing only 11 of 24 passes while being intercepted twice and sacked five times. It was the second time this year (in addition to Boston College) the Tigers held an opponent to less than
100 yards rushing and passing while the five sacks were their most since
“We were very concerned about (Skinner), that’s a good player and a winner,” Swinney said. “One of the main things we talked about is we needed to affect him with our rush and our pressure and then the secondary needed to hold up. No doubt we affected Skinner and it really showed.”
The only low point for the Tigers was a first half neck injury suffered by redshirt sophomore safety Kantrell Brown, who was down for several minutes before being removed from the field on a stretcher. Brown underwent tests at Oconee Memorial Hospital before being diagnosed with a sprained neck and returning to campus. He's expected to make a full recovery.
Even after putting together a complete game, Clemson’s players acknowledged a need to keep improving, but they were certainly encouraged by their performance and can now more easily buy into Swinney’s preaching.
“I told the guys that if they execute, then they can win games. If we play like we practice, then we can overwhelm the other team, and that’s what we did today. Overall, it was a great job by the entire team on this win.”