No one really knew what to think about Clemson when the 1982 season began. Clemson was under scrutiny after the NCAA notified the university of its official inquiry into recruiting violations inside its football program.
That was back in late March, while Danny Ford’s football team was trying to figure out how it was going to replace 11 starters from its 1981 National Championship team.
Back in Chapel Hill, N.C., North Carolina was the media’s pick to win the ACC. The Tar Heels returned 15 starters from their 10-2 team that finished No. 9 in the country in 1981.
After a season opening loss at Pittsburgh, UNC rattled off five straight wins before being upset by Maryland the game before they traveled to take on the Tigers at Death Valley. Regardless, the Tar Heels were 5-2 and ranked No. 18 in the country when they came to town.
Like North Carolina, the Tigers stumbled out of the blocks and were beat by a good Georgia team in Athens on Labor Day Night, a team that later played for the national championship. In Week 2, a freshman quarterback by the name of Doug Flutie led an upstart Boston College team to a 17-17 tie at Memorial Stadium in Clemson.
However, behind its defense, Clemson finally got the train going in Week 3 against Western Carolina. Blowout wins over Kentucky, Virginia and Duke followed and then a win at NC State had the Tigers at 5-1-1, ranked No. 13 and on a five-game winning streak heading into the North Carolina game.
The Clemson-North Carolina matchup had turned into the ACC’s best rivalry in those days. Six of the previous seven games between the two ended in either a tie or by five points or less. The two combined to win four of the previous five ACC Championships and each of the last two.
The Tigers owned a 4-2-1 record in those meetings and the 1983 game was predicted to be like all the rest, a down-to-the-wire game where the outcome was not decided until the final moments.
It was big game for Clemson in the ACC standings on November 6, 1982, so Ford broke out the mystical orange pants. The two heavyweights went blow for blow for three quarters.
UNC quarterback Scott Stankavage threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Arnold Franklin to tie the game at 13-13 in the third quarter. Bob Pauling later added a 43-yard field goal to put Clemson back in front, but the Tar Heels responded with a 65-yard drive that found them at the Clemson 15-yard line with less than a minute to play.
However, a bad case of the drops hit North Carolina after that. On first down, wide receiver Mark Smith dropped a potential game-winning touchdown in the end zone.
Two plays later and the Tar Heels stuck on the Clemson 15, UNC head coach Dick Crum to decided he was going for the win, and not the tie. Instead of attempting a 32-yard game-tying field goal, he instead threw a pass to reserve tailback, Tyrone Anthony, on fourth-and-four. Anthony dropped what could have been a possible touchdown and would have been a first down.
Anthony later said he took his eyes off the ball because he was trying to check his “surroundings.” Nonetheless, Clemson escaped with a 16-13 victory, setting up an ACC Championship Game between Maryland at College Park the following week.
—file photo courtesy Clemson Athletic Communications
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