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Top-15 Memorable Victories In Clemson History

Sept. 19, 2000

By Bob Bradley Sports Information Director EmeritusWake Forest Game Program – September 16, 2000

Editor’s Note: Bob Bradley has seen more than 600 Clemson football games, more than half of all the games in this University’s history. The total includes 497 in a row heading into today’s Wake Forest game. We can’t think of anyone more qualified to select the top 15 memorable victories in Clemson history. The games are not ranked in any special order, just the order in which they came to Bradley’s still fertile mind.

Clemson 31, South Carolina 27Nov. 19, 1977 at Columbia, SC

We jumped out ahead 24-0, but South Carolina came back and scored, and scored and scored. They took a 27-24 lead with less than three minutes left.

We took over for one last drive and Steve Fuller came into the Clemson huddle after we got possession and told the team, “boys we are going down the field and score a touchdown to win this game,” His first two passes weren’t very good and it looked like we weren’t going anywhere.

But he finally completed a pass to Rick Weddington to keep the drive alive. He got hot after that. He hit Dwight Clark with a pass on a key play. Then the culmination of the drive was a 20-yard touchdown pass to Jerry Butler, something we refer to around here as “The Catch”. Butler made a diving backwards catch with just 49 seconds left in the game, giving us a 31-27 victory.

There might have been an extra motivation for our players on that last drive. That year, Coach Charley Pell would give cigars to the team after a Clemson victory. He started it after we beat Georgia in Athens by stopping the bus at a convience store on the way back. We hadn’t won in Athens since 1914, so it was a special occasion.

That year, someone at South Carolina printed up t-shirts that said “No Cigars Tonight”. A lot of the South Carolina players wore them under their uniform. When they scored to go up 27-24, a lot of them raised up their jerseys and showed the Clemson players and the television audience those t-shirts. I am sure Coach (Jim) Carlen wanted to wring their necks…especially after Butler made that catch.

Clemson 22, Nebraska 15Jan. 1, 1982 at Miami, FL (Orange Bowl)

This game was for the national championship. Nebraska had future Heisman Trophy Mike Rozier, Dave Rimington, the Outland Trophy Winner and many other talented players. But we had some pretty good players in our own right with Jeff Davis, Perry Tuttle, William Perry, and many others.

Nebraska scored and cut the lead to seven points, 22-15 when they converted a two-point play from the eight yard line in the fourth quarter.

But, we held the ball about the last five minutes. Homer Jordan was the key to running out the clock and not giving Nebraska another chance. He made a great run with about two minutes left that gave us a first down. What a run that was, he made so many cut backs. We held the ball to the final seconds. Nebraska had one last play with six seconds left, but Andy Headen knocked down a long pass attempt.

Homer made it to the dressing room, but he passed out once he got there from dehydration. All the press wanted to talk to Homer after the ballgame, but he was in there for a long time getting IVs. By the time he got out of the training room it was past deadline for the writers. That is why all the accounts of that game don’t have any quotes from Homer. He didn’t do any interviews until the next day. That was certainly a magic night in Miami.

Clemson 40, Virginia 35Sept. 24, 1966 at Clemson, SC

We were down 18 points with 17 minutes to play in this game. We came back on the passing of Jimmy Addison. He passed 65 yards to Jacky Jackson for a the touchdown that put us in front. Jackson took off down the sidelines and “Needle” hit him in stride.

That game was memorable because it was the first time that Howard’s Rock was in Death Valley. Coach Howard went on his television show the next day and said he told his players prior to the game that if they rubbed that rock they would receive magical powers. But, if they weren’t going to give 110 percent, to “keep your filthy hands off that rock.” A legend was born on that day.

Virginia had a quarterback named Bob Davis. He and Needle put on quite a passing show, even by today’s standards. Both teams threw for over 300 yards, the only game that happened in Clemson history over the first 90 years of play. In fact both were named National Players of the Week by some services.

We went on to win the ACC Championship. We wouldn’t have done it if we didn’t pull off that comeback against Virgina.

Clemson 33, Wake Forest 31Nov. 21, 1959 at Clemson, SC

This was the first very exciting game in Death Valley that I remember after the time I became sports information director (1955). This was just like a tennis match, up and down the field.

The Deacons had us beat in the fourth quarter, but in those days, maybe just that year, the NCAA had a crazy substitution rule stating that you could not reenter a game until the next quarter. Wake Forest substituted its quarterback late in the fourth quarter. We turned the ball over, so they had to put a substitute quarterback into the game. On a third-down play, Chuck O’Reilly, the substitute quarterback, threw the ball into the flat and George Usry intercepted.

Usry returned the interception about 75 yards. Two plays later, he ran it in for the touchdown. So, Usry made the interception and then scored the winning touchdown. You wouldn’t see that today because no one plays both ways anymore.

When we scored that last touchdown to go ahead, 33-31, Furman Bisher of the Atlanta Constitution asked jokingly, “Does anyone remember how the first touchdown (of this game) was scored?” It seemed like it had been a week ago. Of course, games weren’t as high scoring in those days because offenses were much more conservative. Today high scores are a lot more common.

Clemson 24, Missouri 23Jan. 1, 1949 at Jacksonville, FL (Gator Bowl)

Clemson’s 1948 team was undefeated, but we had the lucky horseshoe all year long. We had so many close games that year, but we won them all.

I hate to leave out some games from that season in this list. We beat NC State 7-0 on a 90-yard punt return by Bobby Gage. Phil Prince blocked a punt at South Carolina that Rabbit Thompson returned for a touchdown, giving us a 13-7 win over South Carolina. And the last game we humiliated Auburn 7-6 in a driving rainstorm.

We kept the horseshoe for the Gator Bowl against Missouri. This game was voted the best Gator Bowl game of the first 25 that were played. We had them 24-16 and they scored a touchdown to cut the margin to one point with about four minutes left.

We got the ball back and were trying to run out the clock and come home with a one-point win. We had a fourth-and-three near midfield. Coach (Frank) Howard decided to go for it because he felt we had not stopped their offense all day. He called a play that gave the ball to Fred Cone on a running play. He hit a stone wall, but he kept his legs churning, bounced outside a little and gained six yards for the first down. We ran the clock out for the victory. Cone was as strong as an ox….he still is today.

Coach Howard never would tell me his most memorable game, but he always told me that run by Fred Cone was his most memorable play. The previous season a group of students had come over to see Coach Howard to try to get him to resign. We were 1-5 at the time. He told those boys we were going to win the final three games of the 1947 season, then have a very good season the next year. He didn’t know what he was talking about, but he proved to be correct. We won 14 straight games after he met with those students.

Clemson 12, Vanderbilt 7Oct. 11, 1958 at Nashville, TN

We scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, including the last one on a short run by Harvey White with just three seconds left. It is still the latest Clemson has ever scored a touchdown to win a game. This was a key victory in a bowl season for Clemson.

This was another year we had the horseshoe. We won four games with touchdowns in the fourth quarter that year and it took us to a bowl game.

We almost beat #1 LSU in the Sugar Bowl that year, but Billy Cannon threw a touchdown pass to beat us.

Clemson 28, Maryland 24Nov. 18, 1978 at College Park, MD

This game was for the ACC Championship and both teams were ranked in the top 11 in the nation.

This was an incredible game of big plays. I can’t remember another game with as many long plays. Maryland had a runner named Steve Atkins who had a 98-yard run, which is still an ACC record. Dwight Clark caught a 62-yard touchdown pass from Steve Fuller and Jerry Butler caught an 87-yard touchdown pass, the longest of his career.

They kicked a field goal to make it 28-24 in the fourth quarter and got the ball back. They drove into our territory, but couldn’t get any closer and we won.

When we got back to the Greenville Airport there were 7,000 people waiting. Cars were parked all the way to I-85. People were all over the place to welcome the team. It was quite a scene. This victory gave us a 9-1 record and moved us into the top 10 in the polls for the first time since the 1950s, so it was quite a big win, not to mention the clincher for the ACC Championship.

Clemson 29, Virginia 28Oct. 10, 1992 at Charlottesville, VA

The greatest comeback we ever had. Virginia was up on us 28-0 with 32 minutes left in the game. Right before the half Louis Solomon made a 64-yard touchdown run to give us some momentum going into halftime. The second half our defense made some adjustments and shut Virginia out.

We made the comeback by running the ball. We had over 400 yards rushing for the day, an unusual way to make a comeback. Rudy Harris had a big day and Rodney Blunt scored a key late touchdown. They just couldn’t stop us.

We got the ball back in the final minutes, down 28-26. We drove the ball up the field, again on the ground. Nelson Welch made a 32-yard field goal to win the game. It was phenominal comeback because we did it on the road against a top 10 team. It is still the greatest comeback by an ACC team against another ACC team.

Clemson 13, Georgia 3Sept. 19, 1981 at Clemson, SC

Georgia came to Clemson as defending national champion. This was Clemson’s key regular season win on the way to our national championship.

No one had us in their preseason top 20, we were just coming off a 6-5 season. Clemson vs. Georgia is a special rivalry and this is one of the games that made it that way. Herschel Walker had led Georgia to the National Championship the year before and he was a marked man by our defensive players on this day.

The Clemson defense forced nine turnovers on this day, the most turnovers has forced in a game in history. Clemson took a 10-0 lead in the first half on an eight-yard touchdown pass from Homer Jordan to Perry Tuttle and a 39-yard field goal by Donald Igwebuike.

Clemson and Georgia traded field goals in the second half and Coach Danny Ford let the defense take control. Jeff Davis was outstanding this day and followed Walker everywhere he went. Walker ended the day with 111 yards rushing on 28 carries, but he never got into the Clemson endzone.

Georgia entered this game ranked fourth in the nation. It is still the highest ranked win in Clemson history in Death Valley.

Clemson 10, North Carolina 8Nov. 7, 1981 at Chapel Hill, NC

The thing I remember about this game was the play that Jeff Bryant made in the closing moments. We had a 10-8 lead in the closing minutes and Dale Hatcher punted the ball out of bounds at the North Carolina two.

They hadn’t driven for a touchdown against us all day, so it looked good for the Tigers.

But, Scott Stankavage started to lead North Carolina up field. With 57 seconds left they had the ball on their 40 and Stankavage threw a swing pass to the right flat. It was incomplete and every player relaxed…except for Bryant. He chased after the ball and pounced on it.

Sure enough, the referees said it was a lateral and it was Clemson ball. We ran out the clock and kept our perfect record.

That one play might have helped him become a first-round draft choice because it showed his alert play. That play was shown on the Saturday night news all over the country because it was the big game of the day in college football. We were ranked second in the nation and North Carolina was eighth, the first time in history two top 10 ACC teams faced each other.

The headline in the Greenville News the next day was Tigers read “10-8cious”.

Clemson 17, Ohio State 15Dec. 30, 1978 at Jacksonville, FL (Gator Bowl)

Ohio State had a freshman quarterback named Art Schlichter who was a terrific player as a runner and passer. He completed 16-20 passes in that game.

Of course the thing everyone remembers is Woody Hayes hitting Charlie Bauman after Bauman made an interception in the final minute.

Charlie wasn’t even suppose to be in that passing lane on that play. He got knocked backwards, enabling him to make the interception. That was the only interception of his career. He was run out of bounds in the middle of the Ohio State bench, right in front of Hayes and Hayes struck him. I never saw it because I was on the Clemson sideline at the time.

When we got in the locker room everyone was talking about it. Coach Ford felt bad for Coach Hayes and told the players not to comment, just talk about the game.

I remember telling Coach Ford before the game that we needed to have a press conference the morning following the game, because the game was scheduled for 9:00 PM. Coach Ford’s press conference was scheduled for 10:00 AM. At 9:40 AM the Associated Press reporter came into our press conference to tell us that Hayes had been fired.

Charlie felt badly about the whole situation because he had grown up an Ohio State fan and thought a lot of Coach Hayes. For years he refused to do interviews about the incident because he didn’t want to rekindle the incident and hurt Coach Hayes’ legacy. Coach Hayes called him to apologize after it happened. Charlie, who was a sophomore when the play happened, invited him to come down to spring practice, but he never came.

Clemson 21, Georgia 20Sept. 19, 1987 at Clemson, SC

We were down 20-16 with about five minutes left in this game. Rusty Seyle hit a punt that was downed by Chinedu Ohan on the half-yard line. A couple of plays later, out defense swarmed on Georgia quarterback John Jackson and we tackled him for a safety. We took the ensuing punt with about five minutes left and drove the ball down the field behind the running of Terry Allen and Wesley McFadden.

We drove it to the three yard-line and called on David Treadwell for the winning kick. It got a little harry at the end because we were out of timeouts. We got the field goal team on the field and Treadwell got the kick through the uprights with two seconds left.

Treadwell was amazing with those winning kicks. He had done the same thing the year before at Georgia, kicking a 46-yard field goal to win 31-28 in Athens. That game should really be on this list also. We only won in Athens twice since I have been watching Clemson football.

Clemson 16, Notre Dame 10Nov. 17, 1979 at South Bend, IN

I really put this game on the list because Tim Bourret would disown me if I didn’t. But, anytime you go to Notre Dame and beat them it is an accomplishment. Notre Dame had beaten us at Clemson two years before and went on to win the National Championship.

They weren’t as good in 1979, but still had a good ball club. Notre Dame had a 10-0 lead in the first half and was in control of the game. Then a Notre Dame player, Tyree Dickerson fumbled a punt that we recovered. It changed the momentum of the game.

Tim told me later that after Dickerson fumbled the punt, he left the sideline, went to the locker room, got dressed and went back to his dorm, quiting the team in the middle of the game. He watched the rest of the game on TV in his dorm room and never played again.

Anyway, Billy Lott led the comeback in the second half. He had a 26-yard run that put us up and Obed Ariri kicked three field goals and we won 16-10.

That was quite a first 11 games as head coach for Danny Ford. He beat Woody Hayes, Vince Dooley and Dan Devine all within that time. All three are in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Clemson 34, Florida State 23Sept. 9, 1989 at Tallahassee, FL

This might have been the best performance we ever had. We had them 21-0 in the first quarter behind two 73-yard plays. Wayne Simmons had a 73-yard interception return and Terry Allen had a 73-yard run for a touchdown. Allen’s run was amazing because it took place right before the half. We were just trying to run out the clock on a sweep and went all the way.

We controlled this game the entire night. We had a 34-17 lead with six seconds left before Florida State scored a late touchdown. This was a Florida State team that ended the season number-2 in the nation in the final Coach’s poll. If you talk to Clemson fans, this might have been the most fun they have had at a road game. This was the year after the “puntrooskie Game” so our fans were pretty fired up.

Clemson 26, North Carolina 21Sept. 27, 1958 at Clemson, SC

This was the second game of the 1958 season. We had to come from behind twice the week before to beat Virginia. We had to come from behind three times to win this game against North Carolina. This was Coach Howard’s 100th win as head coach. It was the only time that Howard beat Jim Tatum, who was also a Hall of Fame Coach. Coach Tatum died prior to the next season.

This victory was important for Coach Howard and for Clemson football. Up until this game North Carolina always seemed to beat us, they had the lead in the series. But, this win started a string of six straight wins for Clemson over North Carolina. We still lead in the series today.