1966 Team: 50-Year Anniversary

1966 Team: 50-Year Anniversary

Note: The following appears in the SC State gameday football program. To purchase a copy of the program while supplies last, send a check for $6 to Clemson Athletic Communications; P.O. Box 31; Clemson, SC 29633 with your return address.

A funny thing happened at Clemson during three of Frank Howard’s least successful periods over a 30-year head coaching career on the Tiger gridiron…a string bean, splinter, thermometer, needle or similar replica of skin and bones in human form showed up to end that rarity of rarities…Clemson non-winning seasons.

It was Banks McFadden in 1938,39 after only two winning seasons in seven years (1931-37). It was Charlie Bussey in 1955,56 after three non-winning years (1952-54). And in 1966, it was Jimmy Addison after six disappointing seasons for Howard’s Tigers following six national ranked teams and four conference titles in the 1950s.

What doth the 1960s wrought?

The first seven years of the decade saw Clemson record mediocre seasons. Two reasons for that stand out. One was the league’s SAT requirement of 750 and then 800. The other leagues did not have the rule.

Second, Howard played a difficult non-conference slate. The 1966 team being honored today played three top-10 teams outside the league in Alabama, Southern California and Georgia Tech.

Howard was upbeat as he prepared for the season opener against Virginia. He realized that several of the returning players on those two teams were world class, like junior offensive linemen Wayne Mass and Harry Olszewski, both of whom would go on to win the ACC Jacobs Blocking Trophy and become first-team All-Americans. Maybe, he thought, they might just be good enough to protect an amazing quarterback prospect, Addison, from Fairfax, Ala.

Addison impressed on the freshman team in 1964, but he received limited opportunity to play behind team MVP Thomas Ray in 1965. He could thread a needle with his passes, which might be why Howard nicknamed him “The Needle.” A more obvious reason for the moniker was his size…six feet and anywhere from 145 to 155 pounds.

Also returning were Ray’s three leading receivers, Phil Rogers, Wayne Bell and Edgar McGee, and pass defenders Kit Jackson and Wayne Bell, each with four interceptions in 1965. And up from the 1965 freshman team were the likes of halfback Buddy Gore, linebackers Jimmy Catoe and Billy Ware and defensive end Connie Wade.

And so the Tigers were not overly worried by Virginia, not knowing it had come to play behind its star quarterback, Andy Davis. In his “Clemson University Football Vault: History of the Tigers,” author Tim Bourret’s “10 Big Games Remembered (1951-69)” included the first and last of the 1966 team’s games.

Sept. 24, 1966: Clemson 40, Virginia 35 in Clemson. The Tigers came back from an 18-point deficit with 17 minutes left to keep their perfect record against the Cavaliers. Addison had a record-setting performance, completing 12-19 passes for 283 yards and three touchdowns, including a 74-yarder to Jacky Jackson with 3:49 left that became the game-winner.

Davis’ efforts for Virginia won him Sports Illustrated’s National Back-of-the-Week, but Addison topped that by becoming the third Tiger named AP Player-of-the-Week.

Nov. 26, 1966: Clemson 35, South Carolina 10 in Clemson. The Tigers downed South Carolina in the season finale to win the ACC title. Gore, who became Clemson’s first 1,000-yard rusher the next season, finished his sophomore campaign in fine fashion with 130 yards on 25 carries. Jackson added 96 yards on 10 carries and scored twice. But the most noteworthy touchdown occurred when Olszewski caught a midair fumble and ran 12 yards to score.

In the eight games in between Bourret’s two “classics,” Clemson won three out of four versus “Tobacco Road” teams…Duke (9-6) at home, Wake Forest (23-21) on the road and North Carolina (27-3) at home.

A 14-10 victory at Maryland on November 12 brought high hopes for the ACC championship, but NC State’s 23-14 win over the Tigers the following week in Raleigh delayed the 1966 coronation until the season finale against the rival Gamecocks.