Scores

Final

Wake Forest 28

(5-5, 4-3 ACC)

(9) Clemson 31

(9-1, 6-1 ACC)

Coverage: ESPNU

12:00 PM ET, November 12, 2011

Memorial Stadium, CLEMSON, SC

1 2 3 4 T
WAKE 7 0 21 028
#9CLEM 7 7 7 1031

Top Performers

Passing: T. Boyd (CLEM) - 343 YDS, 2 TD, 2 INT

Rushing: B. Pendergrass (WAKE) - 20 CAR, 134 YDS, 2 TD

Receiving: J. Brown (CLEM) - 6 REC, 78 YDS, 1 TD

Late rally, last-second field goal give Clemson ACC Atlantic Division title

Associated Press

CLEMSON, S.C. -- As soon as his foot struck the ball, Chandler Catanzaro knew that No. 9 Clemson was on the way to the Atlantic Coast Conference title game.

Catanzaro rebounded from missing a minute earlier to kick a 43-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Tigers (9-1, 6-1) to a 31-28 victory over Wake Forest and their second ACC Atlantic Division title in three seasons.

"That was the best kick of my career," Catanzaro said. "I was just so proud of myself for that."

As were his teammates and most of the 80,000 at Death Valley. Players and fans streamed on to the field when it was over, swarming Clemson's sophomore placekicker.

"I felt like someone had me around the neck there for a while," Catanzaro said with a laugh.

Tajh Boyd overcame an awful start and two interceptions to throw for 343 yards and two touchdowns after the Tigers had fallen behind 28-14 in the third quarter. Andre Ellington had 98 yards and a pair of touchdown runs as Clemson finished 7-0 at home, its first perfect season at Memorial Stadium since 1990.

There's more left to play for, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney.

"We're always trying to be the best and today we're the best in the division," Swinney said. "But we've got other goals."

Next up is a 10th victory, something that hadn't been accomplished in 21 years. The Tigers get their first chance at North Carolina State next Saturday.

Wake Forest would've controlled the ACC Atlantic with a victory. The Demon Deacons stunned the Tigers with 21 points in the third quarter to take a 28-14 lead.

Michael Campanaro began the Demon Deacons' charge with a 50-yard punt return. Two plays later, Wake Forest had the ball again after Ellington's fumble was recovered by linebacker Joey Ehrmann. It took Brandon Pendergrass two plays to break off a 19-yard touchdown run and put the Demon Deacons ahead.

Boyd was intercepted moments later on Clemson's next series by safety Josh Bush and Pendergrass again made the Tigers pay with a 33-yard scoring run and a two-touchdown lead.

That's when Boyd, Clemson's first-year starter, showed the form that helped him lead Clemson to an 8-0 start. He was 5 of 5 on a 68-yard drive which ended with Brandon Ford's 7-yard scoring catch.

The Tigers tied it with 5:27 to go on Jaron Brown's 10-yard touchdown grab, a series on which Boyd completed six passes for 64 yards.

Wake Forest had its chances to build on its lead down the stretch, but Jimmy Newman missed left on a 32-yard field goal attempt with 8:45 to go.

"I thought we had a great opportunity and we didn't take advantage of it," Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said.

Pendergrass rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns, while Campanaro had nine catches for the Demon Deacons.

Clemson got two colossal stops on defense in the final five minutes to pull this one out, the last when Rennie Moore and Brandon Thompson sacked Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price on third down to set up Clemson's winning drive.

"We're out there to put the fire out, no matter where it is," Moore said.

Clemson played most of the second half without star receiver Sammy Watkins, who was injured on a third-quarter kickoff return. Swinney said the injury was not serious and his freshman will have a sore shoulder for a couple of days before likely returning to practice.

For a team with everything to play for, Clemson looked tentative and out of sync most of the opening period. Wake Forest looked as if it had watched plenty of tape from the Tigers' only loss of the season, 31-17 to Georgia Tech two weeks ago.

In that one, the Yellow Jackets showed the college football world that one way to slow down Clemson's high-flying offense was not to give them the ball. Georgia Tech had the football for 39 minutes to the Tigers' 21.

Wake Forest used the same technique, holding the ball for 17:40 of the first half, 5:20 more than the Tigers. But while the Yellow Jackets capitalized on their opportunities, Wake Forest bogged down.

After defensive end Zach Thompson intercepted Boyd in Wake Forest territory to halt a drive, the Demon Deacons went three-and-out to give the ball right back.

Then a possession later, a botched lateral inside Clemson's 20 from Tanner Price to Orville Reynolds lost 12 yards and Jimmy Newman was low and short on a 47-yard field goal try.

Clemson had its own troubles on offense. Boyd was shaky again on his passes and the interception he threw was his third in the past six quarters. The sophomore had thrown just three interceptions during Clemson's 8-0 start.

Still, the Tigers put together a pair of 80-yard drives, both culminating in Ellington's touchdown runs. He went in from 4 yards out in the opening quarter to start the scoring then leaped over the pile on 3rd-and-1 to give Clemson a 14-7 halftime lead.

Wake Forest's leading rusher, Josh Harris, did not make the trip to Clemson because of a hamstring injury.

The Tigers were an afterthought when the season began and Swinney's future was very much in doubt. Now, he and his team are locked in for a try the school's first ACC title since 1991.

"There weren't many people who picked us to go to Charlotte," he said.

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Team Stat Comparison

 
WAKE
CLEM
1st Downs2127
Total Yards317522
Passing172343
Rushing145179
Penalties1-106-58
3rd Down Conversions8-169-16
4th Down Conversions0-12-3
Turnovers03
Possession30:0829:52

Passing Leaders

Wake ForestC/ATTYDSAVGTDINT
Price24/371724.610
ClemsonC/ATTYDSAVGTDINT
Boyd27/433438.022

Rushing Leaders

Wake ForestCARYDSAVGTDLG
Pendergrass201346.7233
Reynolds2105.008
ClemsonCARYDSAVGTDLG
Ellington25983.9221
Watkins23216.0023

Receiving Leaders

Wake ForestRECYDSAVGTDLG
Campanaro9728.0017
Givens4317.8013
ClemsonRECYDSAVGTDLG
Brown67813.0118
Watkins56212.4021

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERWAKECLEM
TD05:33Andre Ellington 4 Yd Run (Chandler Catanzaro Kick) 07
TD00:53Cameron Ford 3 Yd Pass From Tanner Price (Jimmy Newman Kick) 77
SECOND QUARTERWAKECLEM
TD05:46Andre Ellington 1 Yd Run (Chandler Catanzaro Kick) 714
THIRD QUARTERWAKECLEM
TD09:43Michael Campanaro 50 Yd Punt Return (Jimmy Newman Kick) 1414
TD08:06Brandon Pendergrass 19 Yd Run (Jimmy Newman Kick) 2114
TD05:32Brandon Pendergrass 33 Yd Run (Jimmy Newman Kick) 2814
TD01:23Brandon Ford 7 Yd Pass From Tajh Boyd (Chandler Catanzaro Kick) 2821
FOURTH QUARTERWAKECLEM
TD05:27Jaron Brown 10 Yd Pass From Tajh Boyd (Chandler Catanzaro Kick) 2828
FG00:00Chandler Catanzaro 43 Yd 2831