CLEMSON, S.C. — It was easy to spot the happiest guy in No. 14 Clemson's locker room: defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
Venables had spent most of his first season watching his Tigers struggle against opponents big and small. But with one of the ACC's best players in Logan Thomas in to lead Virginia Tech, Clemson's defenders put together their best effort of the season.
The Tigers got three interceptions, two off of Thomas, and made two fourth-down stops in a 38-17 victory over the Hokies on Saturday.
Clemson went in 10th in the 12-team conference with 445 yards allowed per game. Virginia Tech got 406 in this one, all but 100 by Thomas, but it was the Tigers defense that turned things around against the fired-up Hokies.
"We don't have to play like Alabama yet," Venables said with a grin. "Although we'd like to. But we can definitely play better than we have up to this point and hopefully, today was a sign of moving in the right direction."
Jonathan Meeks had two interceptions, one that he took back for a 74-yard touchdown off Thomas.
"I knew right away," Thomas said of his sailing throw.
Tajh Boyd ran for two touchdowns and passed for another for the Tigers, who were held to a season-low 295 yards.
Boyd thought the team didn't come out as strong as he had hoped for its first game in two weeks. Still, he said, in other seasons such a showing would lead to defeat. "I think it shows how far we've come," he said.
WAKE FOREST 16, UVA 10: Chad Hedlund kicked three field goals, and the visiting Demon Deacons returned from an open week with a much-improved defense to send the Cavaliers to their sixth straight loss.
The victory came two weeks after Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe suspended six players before a loss at Maryland for violating team rules, and with two new players sidelined for the same thing in the midst of losing three out of four games.
"We came out (Saturday) fired up," said quarterback Tanner Price, who completed just seven passes. "We realized the importance of this game and we realized that we really needed to get back on track. It was great to see a team after especially all that adversity come together and mesh and win a football game."
N.C. STATE 20, MARYLAND 18: Mike Glennon directed a frantic drive to set up a 43-yard field goal by Niklas Sade with 32 seconds left, and the visiting Wolfpack overcame a valiant performance by Terrapins backup quarterback Devin Burns.
After Sade's kick, Maryland moved 60 yards in five plays before Brad Craddock's 33-yard field goal try hit the left upright with 2 seconds left. Ten of the past 13 games between these teams have been decided by fewer than 10 points, five by fewer than four. Neither team could pull away in this one, even though the Terps lost starting quarterback Perry Hills to a knee injury that likely ended his season.
DUKE 33, UNC 30: Sean Renfree threw a 5-yard touchdown to Jamison Crowder on fourth down with 13 seconds left, and the host Blue Devils rallied.
The Tar Heels erased a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit and took a short-lived lead on tailback Gio Bernard's touchdown, which came after he scooped up a teammate's fumble and galloped into the end zone with 3:12 left.
"Honestly, that play doesn't even matter. We lost the game," he said. "That one play, that's just a little something out of the whole game. But we didn't execute the whole day."
Duke is now bowl eligible for the first time since 1994.
GA. TECH 37, BC 17: Tevin Washington ran for two touchdowns and backup quarterback Vad Lee also accounted for two scores, leading the host Yellow Jackets. Tech snapped a three-game losing streak in their first contest since firing defensive coordinator Al Groh. The Eagles lost their fifth in a row and have yet to beat a Division I-A opponent.