By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
Danny Ford could do little, but appreciate what had just happened.
“I guess that youngster busted that ball when he kicked it 60 yards,” the former Clemson head coach joked.
That youngster was former Georgia kicker Kevin Butler, who nailed a 60-yard field goal with 11 seconds remaining in the Bulldogs’ stunning 26-23 victory over then second-ranked Clemson at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on September 22, 1984.
The kick tied Tennessee’s Fuad Reveiz for the longest field goal in SEC history at the time, while sending the late legendary “Voice of the Bulldogs,” Larry Munson, into a frenzy.
“Oh my God! Oh my God!,” Munson screamed to the listening audiences back home.
Butler made four fields that afternoon for Georgia, but the 60-yard kick helped erase the pain of a 26-yard kick he missed earlier in the day.
“I knew I had the range, but there was some wind,” he said. “I kept watching the flag. It was blowing both ways. It was probably the prettiest kick I’ve ever made.”
Unfortunately, Butler’s record-tying kick was not the only thing reporters were asking players about after the game. Clemson’s Terrance Roulhac returned the ensuing kickoff to the Georgia 37-yard line where he stepped out of bounds with what he thought was time still left on the clock.
The Clemson wide receiver thought he gave his kicker, Donald Igwebuike, enough time to attempt a long field goal and maybe tie the game, again. To complicate matters, when Roulhac stepped out of bounds, he was shoved by a Georgia defender, prompting an official to throw a flag.
The long kick return and the additional 15-yard penalty would have given Clemson the football at the Bulldogs’ 22. Meaning Igwebuike, who led the nation in accuracy in 1984, would only have to try a 39-yard field goal to tie the game.
But when the officials huddled up they determined time had run out before the foul had occurred and the game was ruled over.
“I thought at the time I got the ball that I was going to score because there was a considerable amount of daylight there,” Roulhac said. “But it was shut down, so I just tried to get out of bounds before the clock ran out.”
Clemson players left the field feeling rejected, but it had nothing to do with the way the game ended. They felt they played perhaps their worse game in a long, long time as the loss snapped a 10-game winning streak which dated back to the previous year’s 16-16 to Georgia.
The Tigers blew leads of 10 and 14 points in the game as Clemson turned the football over seven times that afternoon. Quarterback Mike Eppley struggled with an 11 of 28 passing day, which included three interceptions. He also lost one fumble.
“I’ve never seen us play so poorly,” running back Terrance Flagler said. “Georgia’s defense was opportunistic. They creative turnovers like they said they would, and they capitalized on them.”
But it was the Tigers who capitalized on Georgia’s mistakes in the first half. After an Eppley to K.D. Dunn touchdown pass gave Clemson an early lead, a pass interference call on Clemson’s next possession set up a 22-yard Igwebuike field goal for a 10-0 advantage.
Georgia rallied behind two Butler field goals, but Flagler broke off a 38-yard run on the Tigers’ next possession and then he caught a 27-yard touchdown pass later in the drive to put Clemson in front, 17-6. Defensive back Ty Davis then intercepted one of four passes from Georgia quarterback Todd Williams, allowing Igwebuike to connect on a 43-yard field goal just before the half.
“They had us down and almost out,” former Georgia coach Vince Dooley said.
But the Bulldogs weren’t out. Instead Williams bounced back from a poor first half and opened the second half with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Herman Archie to pull with seven points, 20-13. Moments later Eppley fumbled on Clemson’s next possession and the Bulldogs capitalized as running back Cleveland Gary ran in from a yard out to tie the game.
Eppley’s struggles continued on into the fourth quarter as he threw consecutive picks to Georgia Tony Flack. The second one set Butler up for a 43-yard field goal, giving Georgia its first lead of the afternoon, 23-20, with six minutes to play.
Clemson responded with a long drive, which Igwebuike capped with his fourth field goal of the day, this time from 48 yards out.
The Bulldogs took over with a little more than two minutes to play, and just when it seemed the game was going to end in another tie, running back Tron Jackson broke off a 24-yard run against Clemson’s vaunted defense to the Clemson 43, setting up Butler’s 60-yard miracle kick with 11 seconds to play.
“You have to give that man credit,” Clemson middle guard William Perry said. “He comes in and makes the field goal that wins it. He could kick one 75 yards if he had to. To me, that makes him a great kicker.”
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