43 biggest wins in my 16 years tracking Clemson Football
Last Sunday (April 5) was my 16th anniversary covering Clemson Athletics.
In my 16 years, I have had the pleasure of covering a lot of big events and a lot of big games. And since this is the space that I usually write my Monday Morning Quarterback column, why not write about the Tigers’ biggest wins on the gridiron during my time covering the Tigers.
As you can imagine, I have had the opportunity to cover a lot of big wins for the Clemson football program over the years. Most of them during the Dabo Swinney era, including two national championships. However, I covered a couple of monumental victories during the Tommy Bowden era, too.
In all, I have covered 43 significant wins by Clemson in the 16 previous seasons. There is at least one significant win in every season and most of them are against ranked teams.
I hope you enjoy this list while going down memory lane as much as I did while writing this column.
November 6, at No. 11 Miami: This was one of the biggest wins in the Bowden era. After trailing 17-3 at halftime, the Tigers scored the game’s last 21 points, including the winning touchdown in overtime in a 24-17 victory. The game was played at the old Orange Bowl. It was Clemson’s first game at the Orange Bowl since winning the 1982 Orange Bowl Classic over Nebraska, a win that clinched the program’s first national championship.
September 3, vs. No. 17 Texas A&M: Clemson avenged a loss to the Aggies from the year before as Jad dean kicked a school record six field goals, including a 42-yard with two seconds to play for a 25-24 win. The win marked the first time since 1958 the Tigers opened the season with a victory over a ranked team.
November 19, at No.19 South Carolina: Clemson defeated a ranked South Carolina team on the road for the first time, 13-9. Running back James Davis scored the game-winning touchdown and then quarterback Charlie Whitehurst picked up a key third down in the final minutes to secure the victory. Whitehurst became the first quarterback in the history of the rivalry—on either side—to finish his career 4-0 in the series. He still holds that distinction today.
September 16, at No. 9 Florida State: James Davis scored on a 1-yard run with eight seconds to play, lifting Clemson to a 27-20 victory. It was the Tigers’ first win in Tallahassee since 1989 and the first time they won at FSU since the Seminoles joined the ACC in 1992.
October 21, vs. No. 13 Georgia Tech: No. 12 Clemson dominated No. 13 Georgia Tech, 31-7, at Death Valley in what was the first battle of top 25 teams at the Valley in 14 years. It was also the first time Clemson hosted ESPN’s famous college pregame show, College GameDay. James Davis rushed for 216 yards and C.J. Spiller added 116 as the Tigers’ rushed for 321 as a team. It marked the first time in history Clemson had a 200-yard runner and a 100-yard runner in the same game. Spiller also became the first player to score 50-yard touchdowns as a runner and as a receiver in the same game.
September 3, vs. No.19 Florida State: Clemson beat the Seminoles on Labor Day Night, 24-18.
November 24, at South Carolina: Mark Buchholz kicked a 35-yard field goal as time expired for a 23-21 victory in Columbia.
November 1, at Boston College: Dabo Swinney earned his first win as a head coach as Clemson beat Boston College, 27-21.
November 29, vs. South Carolina: Clemson beat rival South Carolina, 31-14, for the 10th time in 12 seasons, but more importantly secured the head coaching job for Dabo Swinney, who was just the interim head coach at the time.
October 24, at No. 8 Miami: Clemson got its first big win, 40-37, under Dabo Swinney after Kyle Parker hit Jacoby Ford on a 26-yard touchdown pass in overtime. It is still the highest-ranked win in school history for a true road game. C.J. Spiller had 310 all-purpose yards in the game, a Clemson record at the time.
November 6, vs. No. 23 NC State: Clemson’s defense shut down Russell Wilson and the NC State offense, as the Tigers held on for a 14-13 victory at Death Valley.
September 17, vs. No. 21 Auburn: Clemson snapped Auburn’s 17-game winning streak, the nation’s longest at the time, with a 38-24 victory at Death Valley. The Tigers totaled 624 yards of offense that afternoon, the third most against an SEC team.
September 25, vs. No. 11 Florida State: Tajh Boyd threw for 344 yards and three touchdowns in leading Clemson to a 35-30 victory at Death Valley.
October 1, at No. 11 Virginia Tech: Clemson beat Virginia Tech for the first time in 22 years, while at the same time becoming the first ACC team to record three consecutive wins over ranked opponents. The Tigers beat the Hokies, 23-3.
December 3, vs. No. 5 Virginia Tech: Clemson won its first ACC Championship in 20 years thanks to a 38-10 win over Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte. The win was also the Tigers’ 10th of the season, the first time that happened in 21 years. Tajh Boyd was named the game’s MVP after he completed 20-29 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns.
September 1, vs. No. 25 Auburn: Deandre Hopkins caught a school record 13 passes, including the winning touchdown in the Tigers’ 26-19 victory over Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Classic in Atlanta.
December 31, vs. No. 9 LSU: Deandre Hopkins was again the hero of the night, when he caught a fourth-and-16 pass from Tajh Boyd late in the fourth quarter which kept the Tigers’ game-winning drive alive. Chandler Catanzaro booted a 37-yard field goal as time expired, lifting Clemson to a 25-24 come-from-behind victory over LSU.
August 31, vs. No. 5 Georgia: Clemson became the first non-conference team in history to beat two top 10 SEC teams in consecutive games. Tajh Boyd accounted for five touchdowns, including three through the air in the Tigers’ 38-35 victory.
January 3, vs. No.7 Ohio State: Clemson recorded its second straight 11-win season with a come-from-behind, 40-35, victory over Ohio State in the Orange Bowl. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins caught an Orange Bowl and Clemson record 16 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns.
November 29, vs. South Carolina: Despite playing with a torn ACL, Deshaun Watson threw for 269 yards and accounted for four touchdowns in Clemson’s 35-17 victory over the Gamecocks. The win snapped a five-game losing streak to USC and started what is now a six-game win streak in the series for Clemson.
December 29, vs. No. 24 Oklahoma: Clemson won its 10th game of the season thanks to a 40-6 rout of Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando. Cole Stoudt threw for 319 yards and three touchdowns in what is still the largest margin of victory for a Clemson team in a bowl game.
October 3, vs. No. 6 Notre Dame: In a driving rainstorm, Clemson hung on to beat Notre Dame, 24-22, as Carlos Watkins and Ben Boulware made a tackle on the Irish’s two-point attempt with seven seconds to play in the game.
November 7, vs. No. 17 Florida State: Playing as the No. 1-ranked team for the first during a regular season, Clemson beat the Seminoles, 23-13, at Death Valley.
December 5, vs. No. 8 North Carolina: Clemson wins its first ACC Championship in four years thanks to a 45-37 victory over North Carolina.
December 31, vs. No. 4 Oklahoma: Clemson advanced to its first national championship game in 34 years thanks to a 37-17 win over Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff Semifinals at the Orange Bowl. The Tigers outscored Oklahoma 21-0 in the second half.
October 1, vs. No. 3 Louisville: Deshaun Watson found Jordan Leggett on a 31-yard touchdown pass in the closing minutes of the game and then the defense hung on with a fourth down stop at its own 4-yard line as Clemson beat Lamar Jackson and Louisville, 42-36, in one of the greatest games ever played at Death Valley.
October 29, at No. 12 Florida State: Clemson won at Florida State for the first time since 2006. Again, Deshaun Watson found Jordan Leggett for the winning touchdown in the final minutes of the game, while the defense made another stop to secure a 37-34 victory.
December 3, vs. No. 19 Virginia Tech: Clemson hung on to win its second straight ACC Championship with a 42-35 victory over the Hokies in Orlando.
December 31, vs. No. 2 Ohio State: In one of the most dominating performances in Clemson history, the Tigers embarrassed Ohio State, 31-0, in the College Football Playoff Semifinals at the Fiesta Bowl. It was Clemson’s first win over a No. 2 ranked team and the first time an Urban Meyer coached team failed to score. It was also the first time Ohio State was shutout in a game since 1993.
January 9, 2017 vs. No. 1 Alabama: Clemson won its first national championship in 35 years when Deshaun Watson found Hunter Renfrow with a 2-yard touchdown with one second to play, as the Tigers beat No. 1 Alabama, 35-31, in Tampa. It marked Clemson’s first win over a No. 1 team. Watson accounted for four touchdowns and threw for a then championship record 420 yards.
September 9, vs. No. 13 Auburn: Defensive end Austin Bryant had four sacks to tie a Clemson record, while the team as a whole totaled 11 as Clemson won a slugfest against Auburn, 14-6, at Death Valley.
September 16, at No. 14 Louisville: Clemson’s defense was again masterful in shutting down Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson in a 47-21 victory at Louisville. The Tigers gained 613 total yards, while quarterback Kelly Bryant threw for 316 yards.
September 30, at No. 12 Virginia Tech: Clemson became the first team in the AP Poll era to win three games over ranked opponents in the month of September with a 31-17 win at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va.
November 4, at No. 20 NC State: Clemson outscored NC State in a shootout, 38-31, to clinch the ACC’s Atlantic Division title.
November 25, at No. 24 South Carolina: Hunter Renfrow caught two touchdown passes and Ryan Carter returned an interception for a touchdown as Clemson steamrolled the Gamecocks for a fourth straight year with a 34-10 victory at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia.
December 2, vs. No. 7 Miami: Clemson won its third straight ACC Championship with an easy 38-3 victory over Miami at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. Kelly Bryant, the game’s MVP, completed an ACC Championship Game record 15 straight passes at one point and finished the night 23-29 for 252 yards.
October 20, vs. No. 16 NC State: Clemson rolls to an easy 41-7 win at Death Valley.
November 10, at No. 17 Boston College: Though ESPN’s College GameDay made its first appearance to Chestnut Hill, Mass., the Eagles were no match for Trevor Lawrence and Clemson. The Tigers cruised to an easy 37-7 victory.
December 29, vs. Notre Dame: Playing in its first Cotton Bowl since 1940, the Tigers had no issues with the Irish in the CFP Semifinal. Behind the play of Trevor Lawrence and his wide receivers, Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross, Clemson routed Notre Dame, 30-3.
January 7, 2019 vs. Alabama: Clemson completed the first 15-0 season in major college football since 1897 thanks to its 44-16 victory over Alabama at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence was named the game’s MVP after he threw for 343 yards and three touchdowns.
September 7, vs. No. 12 Texas A&M: Clemson won its fourth straight game over an SEC opponent with a 24-10 win over the Aggies at Death Valley.
December 7, vs. No. 22 Virginia: Clemson recorded its largest margin of victory over a ranked team as it rolled past the Cavaliers, 62-17, in the ACC Championship Game. Wide receiver Tee Higgins caught nine passes for 182 yards and three touchdowns. All three were ACC Championship Game records.
December 28, vs. No. 2 Ohio State: Trevor Lawrence rallied the Tigers back from a 16-0 deficit to beat Ohio State, 29-23, in the Fiesta Bowl as part of the CFP Semifinals. Lawrence rushed for a career-high 107 yards, including a 67-yard touchdown. He also threw for 259 yards and two touchdowns in leading Clemson back to the national championship game for a second straight year.
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