No. 5 Clemson hangs on, tops No. 21 Wake Forest 51-45 in 2OT

Anderson Independent Mail-USA TODAY Sports
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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Nate Wiggins broke up Sam Hartman‘s fourth-down pass in the end zone to help No. 5 Clemson hold off No. 21 Wake Forest 51-45 in double overtime on Saturday.

Wiggins had been targeted frequently by Hartman and the Wake Forest receivers but came through to knock away Hartman’s final ball for A.T. Perry. He fell to the end zone turf, then sprung up to join his team in celebration after a wild shootout between the reigning Atlantic Coast Conference’s Atlantic Division Demon Deacons and the preseason league favorite Tigers.

D.J. Uiagalelei threw for 375 yards and five touchdowns to lead Clemson (4-0, 2-0 ACC), including the go-ahead score over the middle to Davis Allen to start the second overtime.

Hartman threw for 337 yards and a program-record six touchdowns for Wake Forest (3-1, 0-1), including two each to Jahmal Banks and Donavon Greene. But the Demon Deacons stalled out near midfield on a potential winning drive to end regulation, then couldn’t stop the Tigers in the first OT after starting off with Hartman’s TD throw to Perry.

It marked Clemson’s 14th straight win in the series, with Wake Forest’s last win coming in 2008 – which led to the ouster of Tommy Bowden as coach and current coach Dabo Swinney being named the interim.

THE TAKEAWAY

Clemson: This was the start of a two-week stretch that could give the Tigers control of the league’s Atlantic Division race. The Tigers took early control by scoring touchdowns on their first two drives to take a 14-0 lead, only to see the Demon Deacons’ high-scoring offense get rolling by pushing the ball downfield. On this day, Uiagalelei and the offense had to keep coming up with big plays to stay on pace – and they did – until Wiggins helped the Tigers come up with the clinching stop.

Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons have accomplished plenty under Dave Clawson, highlighted by last year’s push to tie the program record with 11 wins and reach the ACC championship game. But Clemson continues to bedevil them, with Wake Forest last winning in 2008 and only one of the previous 13 straight losses coming by fewer than 14 points. Wake Forest also fell to 1-65 all-time against teams ranked in the top 10 of The Associated Press college football poll, with the only win coming against No. 4 Tennessee in 1946.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Tigers are near the top of the AP Top 25 with little room to climb despite a tough road win. The Demon Deacons aren’t likely to slide much, if at all, after giving the Tigers all they could handle.

UP NEXT

Clemson: The Tigers host No. 12 North Carolina State next Saturday in another critical division game.

Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons travel to Florida State next Saturday.

Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. returning for 2023 season

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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SEATTLE – Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. said Sunday he will return to the school for his sixth and final season of eligibility in 2023.

Penix announced his decision on social media and it was a surprising one at that. Penix was the national leader in passing this season, throwing for 4,354 yards and led Washington’s turnaround. The No. 12-ranked Huskies went 10-2 in the regular season, finished tied for second in the Pac-12 and will face No. 21 Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

Penix will have a chance at setting Washington’s single-season record for yards passing in the bowl game. He also threw 29 touchdowns this season. Because of his performance this season, Penix saw his NFL draft stock rise to where he was being expected to be a second-day pick at the latest.

In his announcement, Penix wrote, “As I look back on this special season we had, I realized there were so many great moments and things to celebrate, but I KNOW there is so much for out there for this team and the job is still not finished. I can’t wait to be playing in Husky Stadium for the 2023 season!”

Penix started his career at Indiana and showed flashes of stardom while also battling injuries. He transferred to Washington after the 2021 season, a move that reunited him with new Huskies’ coach Kalen DeBoer, who was Penix’s offensive coordinator for one season at Indiana.

North Texas fires Littrell after .500 record over 7 years

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
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DENTON, Texas – Bowl-bound North Texas has fired coach Seth Littrell, who went 44-44 over seven seasons.

University president Neal Smatresk said Sunday night that the decision to make the move came after a thorough assessment of the program.

The Mean Green are 7-6 this season after losing 48-27 to UTSA in the Conference USA championship game Friday night.

Phil Bennett, their defensive coordinator the past two seasons, was named interim head coach. North Texas plays Boise State in the Frisco Bowl on Dec. 17.

The 44-year-old Littrell had one year left on his contract in what was his first head coaching job. He was the youngest coach in Conference USA and one of the youngest at the FBS level when he arrived after two seasons as offensive coordinator at North Carolina with UNT coming off a 1-11 season at the time.

While the Mean Green are going to their sixth bowl since Littrell first got there, they haven’t won any of those yet. The bowl in his debut season came after only five wins since there weren’t enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all of the slots. Consecutive nine-win seasons followed in 2017 and 2018, but they then had three consecutive losing records before this year.

North Texas also has an interim athletic director after Wren Baker was named as West Virginia’s AD last week.

Smatresk said Jared Mosley, the chief operating officer of UNT athletics, will serve as interim AD. The university is working with a search firm to find Baker’s successor.