South Carolina was still smarting from the previous year’s loss in Clemson when a two-win Clemson team beat the Gamecocks, 28-9, knocking them out of contention for a possible Peach Bowl bid.
When Clemson visited Columbia on November 19, 1977, the roles were reversed. South Carolina was sitting at 5-5 and knew its season was over regardless of the outcome. Clemson on the other hand, was having its best season in almost two decades. The Tigers were in the running for a Gator Bowl invitation and needed a victory over their archrival to secure the bid and go bowling for the first time since 1959.
Clemson came into the annual grudge match with a 7-2-1 record and ranked 15th in the country. The game was also on television as ABC carried it as part of its regional broadcast. It marked the first time in the history of the rivalry the Clemson-South Carolina game was seen on television.
During the first two and a half quarters, everything was pretty much going according to plan for Clemson. The Tigers had a veteran team that was hungry and had a head coach in Charlie Pell that got them believing in themselves. The Gamecocks were young and unsure of what they could accomplish.
The Tigers jumped out to a 17-0 lead by halftime, thanks to a long Warren Ratchford touchdown run, a 30-yard field goal by Obed Ariri and a Lester Brown touchdown from the one. When fullback Ken Callicutt rumbled 52 yards midway through the third quarter, Clemson found itself up 24-0 and well on its way to another easy victory in the series.
It was about that time when South Carolina’s Spencer Clark raced untouched for a 77-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 24-7. Over the next eight minutes, the Tigers could do nothing right and USC could do no wrong.
On Clemson’s next three possessions, it fumbled the ball, went three-and-out and then shanked a punt 10 yards. USC took advantage of each mistake to crawl back in the game with two Steve Dorsey touchdowns to make the score 24-20.
South Carolina again gained possession of the football and had a chance to take the lead for the first time all night as they moved the ball to the Clemson 40 late in the game.
On fourth-and-10 at the Clemson 40, the Gamecocks were desperate to make one last play to at least extend the drive. What wide receiver Phil Logan did not expect was to be so wide open.
When Logan curled, quarterback Ron Bass delivered a strike. The receiver went up and made a great catch. When he came down, the two Tigers covering behind him, fell down and then he made another miss. As he cut across the field, he got a couple of blocks and was never touched as he raced into the Clemson end zone.
Logan’s 40-yard touchdown gave the Gamecocks a 27-24 lead with 1:48 to play. Logan and his teammates were so confident the game was over. Logan was seen lifting his jersey to the crowd revealing a garnet t-shirt with white letters which read “No Cigar Today.” It had become somewhat of a tradition for Clemson in 1977 to smoke a cigar following each of its victories.
The Gamecocks’ sideline antics appeared to tick off the entire Clemson offense. Facing a third down-and-seven on the ensuing drive, Fuller hit Rick Weddington for 26-yards and a first down. After an incompletion, Fuller found Clark across the middle for 18 yards, setting Clemson up at the 18.
The Tigers quickly rushed to the line to run another play, when Fuller noticed South Carolina’s defense was confused, and had trouble getting players onto the field. The play called for Butler to cut to the corner, but USC got pressure to Fuller and forced him to throw the ball earlier than he would have liked.
However, Butler made a leaping, twisting catch that no one else could have made in that game, and no one else has made since in the rivalry.
The play amongst Clemson and South Carolina fans is simply known as “The Catch.”
–file photo courtesy of Clemson Athletic Communications
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