Dabo Swinney has a lot of memories of the last time Clemson and Georgia met, and not many of them are pleasant.
“We just didn’t have a good day,” the Tigers’ coach recalled.
The teams’ season-opening clash on Sept. 4 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte will come seven years after their most recent matchup in 2014. That’s when the Tigers wore down late on a muggy Saturday night en route to a 45-21 loss inside Georgia’s Sanford Stadium.
But a phone call from a rival coach lightened Swinney’s mood.
Once Swinney got around to checking his phone after the loss, he saw he had a voicemail from Steve Spurrier, then the head coach at South Carolina. Swinney said he figures Spurrier called to console him, especially considering what had happened to his team a couple of nights earlier.
Texas A&M handed South Carolina a season-opening 52-28 beatdown that Thursday.
“He said, ‘I don’t know why we schedule these games, you know? We play East Carolina and y’all go play Furman or somebody, and everybody is happy. You get a win. And then we go play these games,’” Swinney recalled. “And he was like, ‘We were pretty much terrible. Got our butts kicked for four quarters. Looks like y’all just got yours kicked for one quarter, but hey, you know, we’ll bounce back and go get ‘em next week.’ And I just laughed. It made me feel better.”
That one quarter was in reference to a fourth quarter in which Clemson was outscored 21-0. The game was tied at 21 at halftime before Georgia, behind its three-headed running back monster of Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, outscored the Tigers 24-0 over the final two quarters.
Gurley, Chubb and Michel — all of whom were eventually drafted into the NFL within the first two rounds — combined for 301 of Georgia’s 328 rushing yards that night. Gurley had 198 yards and three scores by himself against a Clemson defense that finished that season allowing the fewest yards in the country.
Clemson also didn’t have Deshaun Watson for most of that game after the then-freshman quarterback was injured early.
“All of them guys were pretty good,” Swinney said of Georgia’s backfield that season. “You look back a few years later, and you go, well, you know I guess they were all right. You don’t put your head down too bad, but we got better and better that year as it went on.”
As for that voicemail from Spurrier, Swinney said he’s held on to that one as well as others from the College Football Hall of Famer over the years.
“I just put it in my Spurrier voicemail file,” Swinney said. “If Steve Spurrier calls, you usually want to keep those.”
Football season has finally arrived. Time to represent your Tigers and show your stripes!