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Down 14 in the fourth, Clemson rallies past Wake

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) -- Clemson was tired of leaving Wake
Forest with embarrassing losses, so the 15th-ranked Tigers spent
the past week promising they would prove something to the Demon
Deacons.

And after three sloppy quarters, they finally did.

Clemson's 27-17 win over Wake Forest on Saturday may look routine on the scoreboard. Rest assured, it wasn't. Not only did the Tigers have to overcome a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit, they had to do so against a 5-0 Demon Deacons squad -- and a small bit of history. Here is how Clemson has fared against teams that were 5-0 or better since 1994.

Year
Opponent
Result

2006

Wake Forest

W, 27-17

2002

NC State

L, 38-6

1999

Florida State

L, 17-14

1994

Duke

L, 19-13

C.J. Spiller ran 72 yards for the go-ahead touchdown, defensive
lineman Gaines Adams returned a fumble for a score and Clemson
rallied from 14 points down in the fourth quarter of a 27-17 win
over Wake Forest on Saturday to avoid a third straight loss at
Groves Stadium.

"Two years in a row here, playing in this stadium, it brings us
trouble," Adams said. "Everything was going their way the first
half, and partially the second half, but we kept fighting."

Adams started Clemson's comeback by causing a fumble after a
muffed snap on a field-goal attempt, recovering the ball and
returning it 66 yards for the momentum-changing score on the first
play of the fourth quarter.

"I would very much say if we continue to do well, that could
very well be the [signature] play" of Clemson's season, coach
Tommy Bowden said. "In my opinion, it was [the play] of the
game."

Wake Forest was poised to take a 17-point lead when Sam Swank
lined up for a 42-yard field-goal attempt. But holder Jon Temple
had trouble handling the snap, so he pulled the ball up and tried
to run. Almost immediately, Adams burst through the line and
leveled him at the 34. The ball popped into the air, Adams snatched
it and ran 66 yards for a touchdown to pull Clemson to 17-10.

"They just messed up. I was surprised he didn't fall on the
ball," Adams said.

Spiller finished with 104 yards and James Davis added 95 for the
Tigers (5-1, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who denied the Demon
Deacons (5-1, 1-1) their first 6-0 start since 1944.

"We played well enough for three quarters, and then played
poorly in every area in the fourth quarter," Wake Forest coach Jim
Grobe said.

Will Proctor was 20-of-30 passing for 214 yards and a touchdown,
and Clemson overcame his fumble and three interceptions by scoring
24 points in the fourth quarter and making all the plays that
mattered.

"That was probably the worst I've played since Pop Warner,"
Proctor said.

He got plenty of help from the defense and special teams. Wake
Forest led 17-3 entering the final 15 minutes and looked to extend
its lead to 17 before Swank's field-goal attempt turned into Adams'
touchdown.

The Tigers forced Riley Skinner to fumble on the Deacons' next
possession. Five plays later, Proctor tied it at 17-all with a
20-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Kelly.

Spiller then all but sealed it when he took a handoff at the 28,
ran through Chip Vaughn's tackle attempt and sprinted down the
right sideline into the end zone.

"He had fresh legs, he's a sprinter and when he got into the
second level, there was no catching him," Bowden said.

Skinner was 18-of-23 passing for 169 yards with an interception,
and he threw for one touchdown and caught another on a trick play.

But Clemson had 428 total yards to the Demon Deacons' 219 and
the Tigers wouldn't be denied in their bid to end a two-game losing
streak at Groves Stadium.

"By the time things got closer, we just didn't have the
intensity we needed," Skinner said. "It's hard to turn the ball
over and win against a team like Clemson."

The Tigers were embarrassed after losing here in 2003 and last
season, and in the days leading up to the game vowed that this trip
to Winston-Salem would be different.

But for the first three quarters, the Demon Deacons -- who
entered as nearly 17-point underdogs -- mostly were in control.

"We played an explosive, talented football team the way we
wanted to for three quarters," Grobe said. "When we botched the
field goal, we lost momentum and didn't play good football."

Jad Dean had field goals of 20 and 23 yards for the Tigers.

Skinner put Wake Forest ahead 7-3 with a 6-yard touchdown pass
to Willie Idlette, then pushed the lead to 11 early in the second
quarter when he caught a 19-yard score from
quarterback-turned-receiver Nate Morton.

Swank pushed the Demon Deacons' lead to 17-3 with a 22-yard
field goal.