By William Perry.
By Will Vandervort
Only once in the history of Clemson football has a game ended on back-to-back field goal attempts in the final 10 seconds.
Donald Igwebuike’s 68-yard field goal for Clemson had the distance but landed just left of the crossbar with one second to play, while Georgia kicker Kevin Butler’s 66-yard attempt on the next play fell way short as the 1983 Clemson-Georgia game ended in a 16-16 tie.
“I thought Donald had a great chance of making his,” said former Clemson kicker Bob Pauling, who shared duties with Igwebuike that season. “He was kicking from that distance in warm ups and he has kicked them in practice.
“The wind was behind him. It was worth a shot.”
It might have been worth a shot, but at the time it was a real difficult decision for head coach Danny Ford. Georgia rover Terry Hoage, who was an All-American in 1983, had already blocked two field goals in the game and a third one there could have resulted in a game-winning score for the Bulldogs. But Ford had confidence in his line and Igwebuike’s leg. It was a gamble that nearly paid off.
Once again, Clemson dominated the game statistically, but special teams again helped Georgia, again. The year before, the Bulldogs blocked a Dale Hatcher punt which directly led to a touchdown and in the 1980 game they had a long punt return for a score. On this bright and sunny September day in Death Valley, Hoage’s heroics proved to be the difference.
He blocked a 52-yard Pauling field goal in the first quarter, which setup Georgia’s first score of the game, and then did the same—this time a 32-yard Pauling field goal—in the third quarter which changed the complexion of the whole game.
Hoage’s second blocked field goal prevented Clemson from going up three scores at the time and allowed Georgia to stay within its game plan even though it was midway through the third quarter. The Tigers had a 16-6 lead.
“All it is, it’s about running as hard as you can,” Hoag said after the game. “Then you just lay your body out there. I just tried to cut the corner close and I was able to do that.”
Another Clemson mistake, this time a fumble by running back Kenny Flowers, allowed Georgia to end another promising scoring drive by the Tigers to end in disappointment. The Bulldogs used the turnover to begin a long 14-play drive late in the third quarter that ended with backup quarterback Todd Williams finding tight end Clarence Kay, a nearby resident from Seneca, S.C., on an eight-yard touchdown pass.
Williams had replaced starter John Lastinger, who had proven to be ineffective against the Clemson defense. But Williams was not. With time winding down, he again led Georgia on a long scoring drive, this time starting at his 20-yard line.
He moved the Bulldogs 76 yards in nine plays before the drive stalled. Butler was called on from there and hit his third field goal of the day – this time from 31 yards out to tie the game, 16-16.
Clemson desperately tried to win the game in the final seconds as Flowers went around left end for a 15-yard gain and then quarterback Mike Eppley found wide receiver Terrance Roulhac for 13 yards to move the football to the Tigers’ 48. That’s when Ford trotted Igwebuike onto the field to try his 68-yard field goal that he just missed left.
Clemson built its 16-6 lead from the second quarter through the third with 16-unanswered points. Trailing 6-0 at the time, Pauling got the Tigers on the scoreboard with a 37-yard field goal. Then All-American nose guard William Perry busted through the line on Georgia’s next possession and forced running back Barry Young to fumble.
“I just read the block and clotheslined the back,” Perry said. “It was a great hit. I did not know it was a fumble at first, but the ball popped right in my face.”
Perry recovered the loose ball and Flowers gave the Tigers the lead a few plays later when he darted 16 yards for the go-ahead score.
In front 10-6, Clemson opened the second half with a 33-yard Stacey Driver kickoff return and then fullback Kevin Mack broke off a 33-yard run on a third-and-long play to set up a 38-yard Bob Pauling field goal for a 13-6 advantage.
Georgia fumbled the kickoff on the ensuing play and the Tigers recovered it at the Bulldogs’ seven. But Eppley was charged with an intentional grounding penalty on third down, which pushed the ball back to the 23-yard line. Pauling again came on for a field goal attempt, and this time he was true from 40 yards away to put Clemson up 16-6.
In all, the two teams tried 12 field goals in the game – six each.
“It seems typical for this series,” Pauling said. “Every year, some phase of the kicking game makes a difference… That’s the way it goes with these two teams.”
How even were these two teams in 1983? Georgia went on to finish the season 10-1-1 and a No. 4 ranking in the final Associated Press poll. The Tigers closed the year with eight straight wins to finish 9-1-1 for a second straight year and a No. 11 ranking in the final poll.
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