Clemson Flashback: The night Clemson’s ‘Tombstone Tradition’ began

Clemson Flashback: The night Clemson’s ‘Tombstone Tradition’ began


Clemson Flashback: The night Clemson’s ‘Tombstone Tradition’ began


When 10th-ranked Clemson visited No. 16 Florida State on September 9, 1989, it had not forgotten about the previous season. The Seminoles pulled off one of the best trick plays in the history of college football to beat the Tigers, 24-21, at Death Valley. The play is affectionately called “Puntrooskie.”

Clemson had not forgotten about the play because no one would let them. It lived with them throughout the 1988 season and when game week approached in 1989, the media again brought it to the front.

Florida State fans would not let the Tigers forget it either. When the baseball team came down to Tallahassee in the spring of 1989, the fans would yell out, “Hey Clemson, did you ever find the football.”

However, this time, Clemson was not about to let a last-second trick play beat them. The Tigers raced out to a 21-0 lead thanks to two Terry Allen touchdown runs and then a 78-yard interception return for a touchdown by outside linebacker Wayne Simmons.

Following an FSU touchdown in the second quarter, Allen scored for the third time that evening as he raced 73 yards for a touchdown down the near sideline. That gave the Tigers a 28-7 lead and the game was all but over.

The Tigers’ 28 first-half points were the most allowed by FSU in a half since 1965.

Kicker Chris Gardocki added two field goals in the second half, while the Seminoles scored a touchdown with five seconds to play to make the score appear closer than it was, as the Tigers won 34-23. It marked just the 10th home loss in the last 10 years for the Seminoles.

The estimated 7,500 Clemson fans who made the trip to Tallahassee that night had the time of their lives as they mocked the Seminoles’ “Tomahawk Chop” chant nearly the entire fourth quarter.

“I wasn’t surprised that we played that well, but I am surprised that it came as early as it did in the season against that kind of football team,” Clemson head coach Danny Ford said after the game. “We beat a quality team at their place. This is a great win for our team, it should give us plenty of confidence the rest of the season. I just hope we don’t get overconfident.”

Quarterback Chris Morocco led the Tigers by completing 8-of-9 passes for 134 yards. Rodney Fletch caught four of those passes for 92 yards.

The win improved Clemson’s record to 2-0 and moved it up three spots to No. 7 in the AP Poll. It also got Tiger fans excited about the possibility of another national championship.

However, a loss to Duke three weeks later knocked the Tigers out of the national championship race and then a setback against Georgia Tech in Death Valley prevented them from winning a fourth straight ACC Championship.

The Seminoles did not lose the rest of the year, concluding the season with 10 straight wins and another top 5 national ranking. Clemson also went 10-2, winning its last five games, including a 27-7 win over No. 17 West Virginia in the Gator Bowl. The Tigers finished No. 12 in the final AP rankings.

However, Clemson’s win over the Seminoles that night in Tallahassee has never been forgotten, thanks in large part to the fact it is the game that started Clemson’s “Tombstone Tradition.”

Outside Clemson’s Poe Indoor Practice facility sits a fake cemetery which commemorates the Tigers’ win over ranked opponents on the road or in bowl games. A tombstone with the date and the score commemorates the victory.

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