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Oct 20, 2022

Reunion Teams

By: Tim Bourret

Note: The following appears in the Syracuse football gameday program.

Each year on Football Reunion Day, we honor the 50, 25, 10 and five-year anniversary Clemson teams. Below are a few notes about each of those seasons.

50-Year Anniversary

Our 50-year anniversary team was Hootie Ingram’s final season as head coach. The year is remembered for a thrilling 7-6 win over South Carolina to end the campaign and a meeting with a few Tiger players and Ingram during the week of the game.

Clemson had stopped running down the Hill prior to games beginning with the 1970 season. A new locker room had been built for the Tigers in the west endzone, and at the time, it made sense to run out onto the field from that new facility at Memorial Stadium.

The week prior to that final 1972 home game, senior captain Ben Anderson led some classmates to Ingram’s office to see if it would be possible to run down the Hill prior to the game. The seniors had witnessed this as freshmen in 1969. Ingram thought it was a good idea, so the plan went into action.

Even though the game was played “in the worst weather in the history of the Clemson vs. South Carolina series,” according to Dan Foster of Greenville News, the enthusiasm continued throughout the game.

Clemson took a 7-0 lead in the third quarter and held the lead until the 5:07 mark left in the game, when the Gamecocks scored a touchdown. But sophomore end Jimmy Williamson batted down the Gamecocks’ two-point attempt. When South Carolina missed a 52-yard field-goal attempt with two seconds left, the Tigers had their second straight win in the rivalry series, and a legendary tradition was reborn.

25-Year Anniversary

The 1997 team featured a strong start and finish to the regular season. The Tigers defeated No. 25 NC State on the road thanks to a 20-yard field goal by Matt Padgett with 19 seconds left in the game and a 250-yard passing day by Nealon Greene.

Clemson won four of its last five games to finish 7-4 in the regular season and earn a bid to the Peach Bowl. One of those wins was an overtime thriller against Duke in Death Valley, Clemson’s first overtime game. The Tigers kicked a field goal on their possession, then linebacker Rahim Abdullah intercepted a pass and raced 63 yards for a touchdown, giving Clemson the unusual nine-point victory (29-20) in an overtime game.

The Tigers finished the regular season with a dominating 47-21 win at South Carolina that featured a 39-yard punt return for a touchdown by Tony Horne and a 42-yard interception return for a score by Antwan Edwards.

The team featured five First-Team All-ACC selections, including senior offensive linemen Jim Bundren and Glenn Rountree, running back Raymond Priester and Horne.

The defense was led by All-American Anthony Simmons, the No. 15 overall selection of the NFL draft by the Seattle Seahawks.

10-Year Anniversary

The 2012 season holds the distinction of being the only year in which the Tigers began the year and finished the year in the same stadium with victories over ranked SEC teams.

The year started in the Georgia Dome with a 26-19 victory over No. 25 Auburn and finished with a 25-24 win over No. 9 LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

There were many highlights in between those wins over SEC teams that bracketed the schedule. Clemson won seven straight ACC games by 14+ points at one point, the longest streak of its kind in school history at the time.

The season concluded with a 25-24 win over an LSU team that had 32 players go on to play in the NFL. Head Coach Dabo Swinney has said many times this was a huge win for the program.

At season’s end, Boyd and center Dalton Freeman were both named first-team All-Americans by AFCA, just the third time since 1945 that a quarterback and center from the same team were named first-team All-Americans. DeAndre Hopkins finished the year with an ACC-record 18 receiving touchdowns.

Five-Year Anniversary

When it comes to wins over top-25 ranked teams during the regular season, the 2017 team is second to none. The Tigers defeated six top-25 teams, the most in history during a regular season.

Kelly Bryant started all 14 games at quarterback and is still the recordholder for wins as a starting quarterback over ranked teams in one year. He led the Tigers to wins over Auburn (No. 13), Louisville (No. 14) and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, Virginia Tech (No. 12), NC State (No. 20), South Carolina (No. 24 in CFP Playoff ranking) and Miami (Fla.) (No. 7) in the ACC Championship Game.

The Tigers won the ACC Championship Game in dominating fashion (38-3) over the Hurricanes, as Bryant was named MVP.

Clemson was the No. 1 seed entering the College Football Playoff. The Tigers showed great balance on offense with 2,717 rushing yards and 3,297 passing yards on the season. Defensively, six Tigers were named to an All-ACC team on a squad that finished second in the nation in scoring defense and fourth in total defense.