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Sep 18, 2021

Reunion Teams

By: Tim Bourret

Note: The following appears in the Georgia Tech football gameday program.

Due to the pandemic limitations last year, we are honoring eight former Clemson teams during this reunion weekend. Today’s “The Last Word” gives you a short reflection of each season that is being recognized today.

50-Year Anniversary in 2020
The 1970 Tigers ushered in a new era, as it was the first football team in 30 years that was not coached by Frank Howard. Hootie Ingram’s first team won its first two games, including a comeback 27-17 victory over Virginia. The season featured the greatest return game by an individual in ACC history. Don Kelley had an ACC-record 223 return yards on 167 punt return yards and 56 interception return yards against Maryland on Halloween Day. The 167 punt return yards are still 41 yards more than any performance in Tiger history.

50-Year Anniversary in 2021
Hootie Ingram’s second Clemson team won five of its last eight contests, and two of the losses were to No. 5 Auburn and No. 19 North Carolina. A 3-0 win over No. 14 Duke was a highlight in addition to a 17-7 win at South Carolina that closed the season. Future Super Bowl champion John McMakin was the top receiver from his tight end position. The defense featured a secondary that was led by Ben Anderson, Marion Reeves and Bobby Johnson, who had four interceptions apiece on the season. Only three Tiger teams in the last 50 years have had three defenders with at least four interceptions.

25-Year Anniversary in 2020
Tommy West’s second Clemson team was his best. The Tigers finished 8-4 that year, including a five-game winning streak to end the regular season that moved the Tigers into the AP top 25 and the Gator Bowl. Victories during the streak were over Maryland, Georgia Tech and North Carolina, teams that finished the year with a winning record. The Tigers defeated rival South Carolina 38-17 on the road thanks to 323 rushing yards. The 1995 Tigers finished the year 5-0 on the road, the only Clemson team to do that between 1981 and 2015.

25-Year Anniversary in 2021
Clemson’s 7-5 team featured the running of Raymond Priester, who gained 1,345 yards on the ground, fourth most in school history. The Tigers started 2-3, then posted a five-game winning streak that included wins over No. 22 Georgia Tech and a road win over No. 15 Virginia. The Tigers defeated NC State 40-17 in the final ACC game to finish second in the league standings behind Florida State. The Clemson defense included first-round draft picks Anthony Simmons (178 tackles), Trevor Pryce (20 tackles for loss) and Antwan Edwards (83 tackles).

10-Year Anniversary in 2020
The 2010 squad had a 6-7 overall record, but it set the tone for the culture of Head Coach Dabo Swinney’s program. The team lost five games by a touchdown or less, including a five-point loss to South Florida in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Seniors, led by current Tiger staff member DeAndre McDaniel, did not hang their heads and went around the locker room encouraging the returning players to work hard and not let that season happen again. I will always believe this act jumpstarted the program on its current streak of 10 consecutive 10-win seasons.

10-Year Anniversary in 2021
The 2011 team broke a lot of streaks. At the forefront was Clemson’s first ACC championship in 20 seasons, a 38-10 victory over No. 3 Virginia Tech in Charlotte. That win also gave Clemson its first 10-win season in 21 years. Thanks to wins over three ranked teams, defending national champion Auburn (ended its 17-game winning streak), Florida State and Virginia Tech on the road, Dabo Swinney’s squad started the year 8-0 and reached No. 6 in the nation. It marked the first time an ACC team had three straight wins over AP top-20 teams.

Five-Year Anniversary in 2020
The 2015 team always will be remembered as the team that brought Clemson to its first College Football Playoff. The season included a 24-22 win over No. 6 Notre Dame in a driving rainstorm in early October, a 58-0 win at Miami (Fla.) that led the Hurricanes to change coaches, a 23-13 win over No. 15 Florida State and an ACC Championship Game win over No. 8 North Carolina. Clemson then defeated No. 3 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl to advance to the national title game.

Five-Year Anniversary in 2021
“It’s been 35 years…it’s finally coming home!” Those were the words of Ben Boulware during the trophy presentation after Clemson beat top-ranked Alabama 35-31 to win its first national title since 1981. The Tigers won a school-record seven games by a touchdown or less in running up its 14-1 record. A key win was a 42-36 victory over No. 3 Louisville that was a battle of Heisman Trophy finalists Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson. The Tigers beat No. 2 Ohio State 31-0 in the semifinal, the first shutout of its program since 1993.