Davis Allen (84) of the Clemson Tigers points to the stands after scoring a touchdown during a football game between the Wake Forest Demon Deacons and the Clemson Tigers
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Clemson Survives an ACC Instant Classic Against Wake Forest for an Emotional Win

Dabo Swinney, Bryan Bresee, and the No. 5 Clemson Tigers came into Winston-Salem to face No. 21 Wake Forest with heavy hearts. Bresee's younger sister Ella passed away this month after a long battle with cancer. And, with his parents in the stands, the heart of the Clemson defense returned to the field. This was always going to be a difficult game, as Wake Forest QB Sam Hartman and the rest of the Demon Deacons team begin to heat up, but Clemson had more to fight for and eventually came out on top.

However, things almost didn't go their way.

An ACC Shootout Turns into a Potential Championship Prequel

Will Shipley (1) of the Clemson Tigers runs the ball during a football game between the Wake Forest Demon Deacons and the Clemson Tigers

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Normally, when a No. 21-ranked team faces off against a team on the verge of entering a potential college football playoff spot, you'd expect that game to not be close. Instead, Clemson and Wake Forest treated us to what may be an appetizer to the ACC Championship game. With over 1,000 yards of total offense in this game it's no wonder the game went to double overtime to determine a winner.

Sam Hartman, who almost missed the entire season due to a blood clot issue, showed off his arm by throwing six touchdowns to four different offensive targets, while amassing 337 yards through the air. It's almost hard to imagine that only a few weeks ago Hartman was on the sidelines. Now? He's tossing dimes and hanging massive points on the scoreboard. The Deamon Deacons' run game was also strong with Justice Ellison rushing for 73 yards on 21 carries.

Coming into this game, the questions still remained around Clemson QB DJ Uiagalelei and whether or not he can lead this Tigers team back to the college football playoff. Against Wake Forest, Uiagalelei did his best to silence those doubters, tossing five touchdowns of his own and stretching the field with 371 yards of offense. Not to outdone by Ellison on the other sideline, Will Shipley was a massive factor in this game for Clemson, as their ground attack steamrolled the Wake Forest defense for over 175+ yards, the majority of which came from Shipley.

With each offense putting up video game numbers, the game came down to two big defensive plays, one of which could've spelled disaster for Clemson.

Dabo Swinney Puts the Game and Maybe the Season On the Line

Head Coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers yells instructions to his team on the field during a football game between the Wake Forest Demon Deacons

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After each team traded successful overtime touchdowns, Clemson took the ball and once again pounded it in the endzone. Coach Swinney now had a choice: kick the extra-point or go for the two-point conversion and force Wake Forest to reach the end zone twice. It's a fantastic strategic question, one that was famously answered by Boise State's famous "Statue of Liberty" play. Dabo chose the spicy option, sending his offense out to try for two.

As Uiagalelei released a pass toward a Clemson receiver in the end zone, Wake Forest managed to get a hand on the ball, knocking it incomplete. All Wake Forest needed to do was score a touchdown and kick the extra point, and the W would be theirs.

Unfortunately for Hartman and the Demon Deacs, the Clemson defense is not to be trifled with. With the game on the line, defensive tackle Bresee came to the rescue with a massive stop. And, on the following play, Wake Forest failed to reach the line to gain. Clemson was victorious, but no one needed the win more than the Bresee family.

"Before the game when I ran out, it got a little emotional," Bresee said to Sports Illustrated. "I know she's watching over us, she loved Clemson football, and she'll be within us this whole way."

"It brings my family joy, watching us play," Bresee added. "My role through this when it started, 17-18 months ago, has been playing football and bringing joy to my family. ... It's good to be back and have something else to focus on when I'm out there playing. It takes your mind off everything and away from reality for a little bit."

"It's a tough time for our family, and everyone standing behind us through this has been awesome."

"I'm proud of Bryan, it's been a tough time for him," Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said in his postgame presser. "His family, they needed a little joy. Hopefully they can go celebrate tonight and enjoy this game."

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