It was no secret the Clemson and North Carolina football programs did not like each other in the late 1970s through the 1980s.
Beginning in 1975, the two teams played to one tie and six of the other meetings were decided by five points or less in an eight-year span. They were also two of the best program’s in the ACC. In 1981, their game became the first top 10 matchup between two ACC teams.
However, that level of disdain for each other was never more bitter than in 1983.
In 1982, Clemson was put on probation by the NCAA and the ACC. During the 1983 season, UNC head coach Dick Crum was very outspoken about his feelings in regard to the Clemson football program. He basically said the Tigers did not do the ACC any favors with their 1981 National Championship. He stated it did not help the league’s reputation because they were on probation and, “Obviously, they bought it.”
Those words did not sit too well with Clemson. In the week leading up to the game, Danny Ford was asked about Crum’s comments and the Tigers’ head coach said Crum needed to know his facts and if he had something to say he should say it to his face and not to the newspapers.
The Tar Heels came into the ACC showdown ranked No. 10 in the polls, despite a loss to Maryland the week before. They were 7-1 and still in charge of their own destiny when it came to a possible share of an ACC Championship.
Because the ACC put it on probation, Clemson (6-1-1) was ineligible for the conference championship, despite its 5-0 record. The Tigers had won five straight games, all in the ACC, and were looking to show the league and anyone watching they were the best team in the ACC when they came to Chapel Hill, N.C. on November 5, 1983.
Despite its five-game winning streak, people doubted how good Clemson really was. After the first three weeks of the season, the Tigers were just 1-1-1, including a 31-16 whipping at Boston College. The Tigers were a seven-point underdog to the nationally ranked Tar Heels.
It was obvious, Clemson was angry.
The Tigers held UNC to its lowest point total since 1978. The defense suffocated the Tar Heels’ offense all afternoon at Kenan Stadium.
After the game, quarterback Scott Stankavage called the Clemson defense the best he had ever played against. Six times, UNC drove the football deep into Tigers territory, but five times they got nothing.
On the other side, Clemson did not move the football much, but quarterback Mike Eppley and tight end K.D. Dunn did just enough as the Tigers stunned North Carolina, 16-3.
After the game, Ford and his players spoke openly about UNC’s comments prior to the matchup and Ford said he had not enjoyed winning a game that much in a long, long time.
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