CLEMSON, South Carolina — Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson says he's thrilled with the effort his players give against long, long odds.
The Demon Deacons made him proud once again Saturday, outscoring No. 1 Clemson in the second half. Too bad for Clawson, his team fell behind big early and lost to the Tigers 33-13.
"There's every reason to not play hard," said Clawson, Wake Forest's second-year coach. "And they keep going and they keep going. It's amazing."
A week ago, the Demon Deacons held No. 5 Notre Dame to a season-low 282 yards of offense despite losing 28-7. This time, they trailed 30-7 at halftime before holding tough in the final 30 minutes.
Clawson started 12 underclassmen against undefeated Clemson.
"The foundation is starting to get built," he said. "We're not where (the Tigers) are yet, but that's our goal."
Wake Forest (3-8, 1-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) has lost five straight and seven of its past eight. It closes the season against Duke.
Deshaun Watson passed for three TDs and ran for a fourth, leading Clemson (11-0, 8-0) to its seventh straight game with over 500 yards of offense.
Watson opened the scoring with a 3-yard run, then connected on TD passes of 44 yards to Charone Peake, 11 yards to Deon Cain and 47 yards to Germone Hopper.
Watson tops the ACC in total yardage and in touchdowns, upping his total to 26. He finished 24 of 35 for 343 yards. And he led the Tigers to their seventh straight game with 500 or more yards.
"Deshaun was amazing again today," coach Dabo Swinney said.
It's no coincidence the Tigers are undefeated and have a 14-game win streak, their longest in 34 years. It was also the program's 700th victory.
The Demon Deacons could not move the ball most of the game, gaining only 152 yards for their second-lowest total this season.
Clemson's biggest worry since beating Florida State two weeks ago has been not slipping up. The Tigers back slid some, especially on defense, in a 37-27 win at Syracuse where they surrendered several long plays and were in a one-score game until the fourth quarter.
That wasn't the case against the Demon Deacons.
Next up is rival South Carolina, which lost to FCS opponent Citadel earlier Saturday. Then comes the ACC championship game against Coastal Division winner North Carolina, with the four-team playoff still in the future.
"We've got the chance to be the best in the state, the best in the ACC and the best in the nation," Swinney said. "That's just where we are.
Watson displayed his accuracy on his TD throws. His long passes to Peake and Hopper were both high-arching throws and landed in the waiting hands of receivers running full speed. Watson's throw to Cain was a laser strike.
Hopper ended with 120 yards receiving on three catches.
While Wake Forest gave Notre Dame a few headaches, it could not slow down Clemson. The Tigers had 318 yards in the first two quarters, surpassing what the Demon Deacons allowed all game vs. the Irish.
"We have some deficiencies in the program," Clawson said. "We're young, but those kids they just play so hard. I'm so proud of them."
The Tigers were without injured starters in 1,000-yard rusher Wayne Gallman and lockdown cornerback Mackensie Alexander. Both warmed up with teammates before the game and the two are expected to be ready next week.
Not everything was perfect. Watson threw his ninth and 10th interceptions of the year in the first half.
Watson was in late with the game out of reach, throwing long passes, maybe to pass the College Football Playoff committee's eye test.
Clawson wasn't happy with that.
"They tried to do it and we stopped them, so that was a win at the end," Clawson said. "Because everyone knows what was going on."