I remember it like it was yesterday.
It was September 14, 1985. My mom was having her 50th birthday celebration that weekend. A lot of her friends from Greenville had made the trip down to Bamberg to celebrate with her.
It was a very festive atmosphere around my household that weekend. My mother was known for throwing some of the best parties around, and her 50th birthday party was no different.
For me, a boy who was barely 13 years old, I just tried to stay out of the way. However, I love food and my mom always had these elaborate spreads so I was always finding my way to the food counter as often as I could.
Though my parents were throwing a party, my brothers and I still had our chores to do. My Saturdays in the fall revolved around Clemson football. In those days, the Tigers always played at 1 p.m., with very few exceptions.
So I knew if I wanted to hear my Tigers play, I had to get all of my chores done first. That’s right, hear them play.
I lived out in the country and the cable companies did not stretch out that far and there was no DirecTV or anything like that. Though a few years later my buddy Berry’s dad bought one of those big dishes and put it in his backyard. I used to go to his house and watch a lot of games.
But on this day, there was no satellite dish or cable, and the game was not on regular television. Of course, the internet was not introduced to us for another 10 years. The only way to know what was going on with your Tigers was to listen to the voice of the great Jim Phillips.
I finished my chores before lunch time, and my mom made me a sandwich. She knew I would not eat during a game, and I’m still that way today. There was a lot of questions surrounding the Clemson team that year.
The Tigers were just four years removed from the 1981 National Championship, and everyone from that great season had since moved on and no longer playing for the Tigers. Clemson was also coming off three-years of NCAA probation and was finally eligible to play in a bowl game for the first time since the 1982 Orange Bowl.
Randy Anderson and Rodney Williams were entrenched in an intense quarterback battle that preseason, but head coach Danny Ford had named Anderson, a sophomore, the starter for the Virginia Tech game earlier that week.
So the Tigers finally kicked off the football season at 1 p.m. that afternoon in Blacksburg, Virginia against the Virginia Tech Hokies. It marked just the third time since 1969, the Tigers opened a new season away from Death Valley, with the last being on Labor Day Night in 1982 at Georgia.
I sat in my room listening to my radio as Jim Phillips called the game. Things were not going well for the Tigers through the first three quarters. The Hokies led 10-3 as Clemson only had a 31-yard David Treadwell field goal with 0:42 left in the opening half to show for it.
But things got exciting in the fourth quarter. Kenny Flowers tied the game with a two-yard touchdown run with 14:22 to play and then Anderson hit wide receiver Ray Williams with a 46-yard touchdown pass to give the Tigers a 17-10 lead with 8:14 to go.
But the Hokies rallied after a Clemson fumble and tied the game with a 21-yard touchdown pass with 5:48 to play. Virginia Tech put itself in position to take the lead a few minutes later, but a 43-yard attempt with 2:39 to go was wide.
Anderson, who was 17 of 30 for 220 yards, led the Tigers down the field and moved the ball to the Hokies’ 24 with three seconds to play. However, Treadwell missed the 41-yard field goal as time expired as it appeared the game would end in a tie because there was no overtime in college football at the time.
But Tech defensive end Morgan Roane ran it Treadwell and was called for roughing. The ball was moved up five yards and because the game cannot end on a defensive penalty, Treadwell was given another shot, and this time he was true from 36 yards as Clemson won 20-17.
I was thrilled. I ran around the house in excitement and hugged my mom and anyone else I could fine. Little did I know at the time this was the last time Clemson would win a true-road game to open up a season.
“Really?! I did not know that,” Clemson running back Wayne Gallman said earlier this week. “That’s pretty crazy. It has been a long time since a lot of things have been done for Clemson, it seems like. It’s good to know we are bringing something back.”
After the Virginia Tech win in 1985, it was another 11 years before Clemson opened another season on the road and that was not a memorable one as North Carolina hammered the Tigers 45-0 in Chapel Hill.
In 2002, the Tigers visited No. 8 Georgia and lost a heartbreaker, 31-28. And then of course there was the 2014-opener in Athens, a 45-21 loss.
On Saturday, second-ranked Clemson will get another opportunity to start a new season with a road win when it visits Auburn for a 9 p.m. kick. And maybe this time they will bring back a little history.
“I did not realize it had been that long. Hopefully, we can change that,” quarterback Deshaun Watson said.