Clemson’s win over No. 14 Georgia in Athens, Ga., got Danny Ford’s Tigers on a role in 1986. Following the stunning upset over the Bulldogs, four more wins upped Clemson’s win streak to five games as the Tigers rolled through Georgia Tech, The Citadel, Virginia and Duke.
However, in a battle of top 20 teams, No. 20 NC State humbled the 16th-ranked Tigers in Raleigh, N.C., ending the five-game win streak and knocking Clemson out of the rankings. The Tigers bounced back the next behind Terrence Flagler’s 274 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns in at win at Wake Forest.
That set up a date with rival North Carolina on November 8, 1986 at Memorial Stadium in Clemson. The Clemson-UNC game had become a heated one in the ACC. Neither teams’ coaches or players liked each other, plus the games most always came down to the final few minutes.
The year before, the Tar Heels beat Clemson by a point due to a controversial call.
The Tigers were 6-2 and 4-1 in the ACC heading into the big showdown, while UNC was 5-2-1 overall and 3-1 in the conference. Due to NC State’s loss at Virginia from an earlier game, Clemson could clinch a tie for the ACC Championship with a win, while the Tar Heels could gain control of the conference race with two home games left to play.
So, it was no surprise the Tigers came running down the hill in their orange pants on a cloudy, muggy, wet afternoon at Death Valley.
“When you put on orange [pants], there is only one thing that can happen – you’re going to win,” Clemson wide receiver Ray Williams said after the game. “We couldn’t let ourselves lose in orange pants.”
Though Clemson had three players suspended for the game, including receivers Terrance Roulhac and Keith Jennings, it did not seem to matter. After giving up a first-quarter field goal to the Tar Heels, Clemson scored 38 unanswered points in a 38-10 blowout. It marked just the second time since 1975 the winner of the North Carolina-Clemson game won by at least two touchdowns.
With quarterback Rodney Williams running the offense, Clemson racked up 434 yards of offense, including 326 on the ground. Flagler once again had a monster day, rushing for 114 yards and scoring two touchdowns.
During the game, Flagler went over 1,000 yards, becoming the first Clemson running back to hit the 1,000-mark in nine games. He was the fifth Clemson running back all time to go over 1,000 yards.
After the win over UNC, David Treadwell kicked a game-tying field goal in the final seconds against Maryland the following week, clinching the Tigers’ first ACC Championship since 1982. Clemson also tied rival South Carolina in the regular-season finale and then beat Stanford, 27-21, in the Gator Bowl to finish the season 8-2-2 and ranked No. 17 in the final AP Poll.
—file photo courtesy of Clemson Athletic Communications
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