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Sep 09, 2023

1967 NC State Game

By: Tim Bourret

Note: The following appears in the Charleston Southern football gameday program.

Editor’s Note – For each program in 2023, Tim Bourret chronicles an epic game in the history of Memorial Stadium. Today is the first installment.

Frank Howard totaled 165 wins in his Clemson career, a record that still stands today. One of his most memorable victories took place on Nov. 18, 1967, when the Tigers faced No. 10 NC State, coached by Earle Edwards. In fact, it would be Howard’s highest-ranked win in Death Valley in his 30 seasons as Clemson’s head coach.

Clemson was just 4-4 entering the game, but had not lost in the ACC. Howard always played a tough non-conference schedule, and the slate that year included games against Georgia, Georgia Tech, Auburn and Alabama.

NC State had played a solid schedule as well, and their 1967 resumé had included a road win over No. 2 Houston in the fourth game of the year, a victory that brought national attention. With an 8-0 start, NC State jumped to No. 3 in the AP poll, still the highest AP ranking in Wolfpack history.

But the week before the Clemson game, NC State lost at Penn State 13-8 and dropped to No. 10. Most national media members still believed the Wolfpack could earn a bid to the Sugar Bowl with a win at Clemson in their final regular-season game.

NC State also had received national attention because of its “White Shoes” defense. In this era, every player wore black shoes. However, NC State safety Bill Morrow noticed a member of the Kansas City Chiefs wearing white shoes and thought they looked good. He went to co-captain Art McMahon with the idea of the defense wearing white shoes and team leader Chuck Amato endorsed it.

This was a different era. The trainer did not call Nike and ask for an order of white shoes. The players had to paint their shoes themselves.

With the 8-0 start and No. 3 ranking, the “White Shoes” defense was getting plenty of attention. And it had the stats to back it up. It would finish the season sixth in the nation in scoring defense.

So the week of the game, the Tigers got together and came up with the idea that they would paint their shoes orange for the NC State game…not just the defense…the entire team.

The players enlisted the help of Head Athletic Trainer Fred Hoover and Assistant Athletic Trainer Herman McGee about the idea, but they never told coach Howard of their plan. Hoover and his wife went all over the area and bought up as much orange paint as they could find. McGee’s task was to enlist some students to join him in painting the shoes.

“I will never forget the crowd when we appeared at the top of the Hill,” recalled Billy Ware, one of Clemson’s starting defensive players that day. The stadium erupted.”

On Saturday morning, Howard saw the shoes and supported the idea.

It did not look like the orange shoes would be much of a motivating factor when the Wolfpack took a 6-0 halftime lead on field goals by Gerald Warren, who made kicks of 37 and 47 yards with the wind behind him.

Clemson finally got on the scoreboard in the third quarter. On third-and-11 from the NC State 28, Howard called for a pass play.

“The NC State defense was in a double coverage on our receivers, so when Buddy Gore (All-ACC running back) went out of the backfield on a wheel route, he was wide open,” remembered Ware.

“Most of the time, Buddy couldn’t catch a cold, but he was so wide open on this play and made the catch and ran in easily, outrunning the NC State linebacker.”

Statistics show that Gore only had seven receptions in his Clemson career as one of the program’s best running backs, so this play had to be a surprise to Edwards and the Wolfpack coaching staff.

Clemson scored on its next possession on a seven-yard run by Jacky Jackson, giving the Tigers a 14-6 lead with 7:45 left in the third quarter. It was a back-and-forth game from a yardage standpoint late into the fourth quarter when two NC State turnovers proved to be the difference.

With the hopes of tying the score with a touchdown and two-point conversion, the Wolfpack drove to the Clemson 29 with 2:54 left in the game. However, Jim Donnan was intercepted by Richie Luzzi in the endzone to stop the drive.

NC State got the ball back and drove to midfield, but Donnan fumbled when he was chased out of the pocket and reserve defender George Burnett recovered with just 1:44 left.

After the game, Howard was asked about the orange shoes.

“There is something about football that makes boys believe in something that will help them. When they believe they can so something, they usually do it.”

Clemson improved to 5-0 in the ACC with the win. The following week, the Tigers won the ACC outright with a 23-12 win at South Carolina.