With every passing week of the DI men's soccer season, this Clemson-Wake Forest matchup became more important. As the Demon Deacons climbed the rankings, the Tigers remained on top. Even when Clemson fell, the Deacs took their place at No. 1.
This matchup was meant to be hard-fought and tight. A litmus test for both teams in ACC play.
It turned into a blowout of historic proportions.
Wake Forest pulled off a 6-1 win on the road Saturday against a team that was No. 1 in the country until this week (and the defending national champions, at that). In the 53rd edition of this conference matchup, six goals are the most the Deacons have ever scored against Clemson. The five-goal margin of victory is tied for the largest in series history with a 5-0 Wake Forest win in 2008. It was also just the third time in program history the Tigers have allowed six goals in a single game, the first since 1994.
The first half seemed mostly even, with Wake Forest leading by two thanks to good finishes and goalkeeper play. This opener from Babacar Niang was perhaps the best of the day.
In the second half, the Deacons sat back, absorbed Clemson's pressure, and became ruthless on the counterattack. It was a poor day at the office for the Clemson defense, but especially for keeper Trevor Manion, who only managed to make one save. The Deacons finished with six different goal scorers, four of which came off the bench as the starters were rested with the result out of question, like this dribbling masterpiece by Vlad Walent for the third of the night.
Trace Alphin and the Wake defense deserve praise as well. As Clemson's attack became more desperate, the backline held firm, defending 14 corner kicks (seven in each half) and 19 shots. Alphin was nearly perfect outside a final-minute foul in the area and the resulting penalty kick, though he still managed to pull out some spectacular saves.
The Deacons remain perfect on the season with nine wins from nine, while the Tigers drop two of their last three home games.