While Clemson raced out to an 8-1 record, Maryland had done the same. A battle of top 12 teams met in College Park, Md., for the championship of the ACC on November 18, 1978. It proved to be as exciting as a heavyweight championship fight.
In fact, Clemson’s 28-24 victory over the Terrapins is still considered one of the greatest games in ACC history.
It was a game of big play after big play. At one point there were three consecutive scores of at least 60 yards. Maryland scored on a blocked punt that was recovered in the end zone by Mike Carney. On the next possession, Clemson’s Jerry Butler got loose in the secondary and went 87 yards for a touchdown.
Maryland countered with a 98-yard touchdown run by running back Steve Atkins, still the longest run in ACC history. But Clemson got off the mat when quarterback Steve Fuller hit Dwight Clark over the middle and the future All-Pro raced 67 yards for a touchdown.
Clark’s score tied the game at 21 after three quarters.
Clemson’s game-winning 70-yard drive came in the fourth quarter and ended with a 5-yard run by Brown. However, Maryland was not done.
The Terps drove to the Tigers’ seven, but on third down, Clemson’s Bubba Brown, stopped Maryland’s Dean Richards for a loss and the Terps settled for a field goal with 1:56 left.
Chuck Rose recovered the ensuing onside kick for Clemson, and when Fuller guided the Tigers to a pair of first downs, the game ended with a 28-24 victory, an ACC title and a second straight bid to the Gator Bowl to meet Ohio State.
“The story of today’s game is more than what happened on the playing field,” Clemson head coach Charlie Pell said afterwards. “It’s something that was two years in the making, and it took an unbelievable amount of work and dedication from our coaches and players.
“Last year, we learned how to win. This year, mainly in the last two weeks, we’ve shown that we have what it takes to win by coming from behind.”
Clemson fans new what they had done and the people at the Greenville-Spartanburg airport were not ready. When the Tigers’ charter airplane from Washington, D.C. landed, more than 8,000 fans were there to greet them. For over a mile, cars were parked on both sides of the road leading to the airport all the way from I-85.
—file photo courtesy of Clemson Athletic Communications
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