Clemson's 10 Most Electric Crowds (Part I)

This article is the final article in Scott Rhymer's "10 Most" series. You may click the links below to read the past articles on Clemson's 10 Most Surprising Wins, 10 Most Demoralizing Losses and 10 Most Controversial Games.

Clemson's 10 Most Surprising Wins
Clemson's 10 Most Demoralizing Losses
Clemson's 10 Most Controversial Games

The final article will focus on the 10 Most Electric Crowds Clemson has played in front of in the past 25 years. "Electric" would be loosely defined as the loudest or most involved crowd. Some of these games were at home, some were on the road, and some were in bowl games. The common denominator in all of these games, however, is that the crowds left an indelible mark on the memories of those that attended that game.

#10: 2000 Clemson 16 South Carolina 14
"The Catch" Part II
Anytime two ranked rivals like Clemson and South Carolina get together, fireworks are certain to erupt. Clemson (8-2) and South Carolina (7-3) were both in the midst of very good seasons, and this nighttime clash in Death Valley kept the 85,187 fans on the edge of their seats throughout the game.

While most of the first three quarters were spent yelling at poor officiating, the decibel levels rose dramatically as the 4th quarter drew to a close. When Thomas Hill fell on a Derek Watson fumble in the endzone to give the Gamecocks a 14-13 lead with less than 2 minutes remaining, the Gamecock faithful in Death Valley were in full celebration mode.

"Game….Cocks…..Game….Cocks" by USC fans inside of Death Valley could be heard echoing through the outlying parking lots (where and estimated 20,000 people were tailgating without tickets to the game). But the 15,000 Gamecock fans were about to be muffled by a currently stunned Clemson faithful.

When Woody Danztler's pass to Rod Gardner was hauled in, Death Valley erupted with delight. Possibly remembering the missed field goal in 1996 that would have sent the Clemson/USC game to overtime, it was an anxious delight to say the least.

But when Aaron Hunt's field goal spilt the uprights, the largest roar in the history of Death Valley reverberated throughout Clemson. A Clemson friend of mine, who had bolted after the Hill touchdown to beat the traffic, said he heard the roar as he walked down College Avenue to get to his parked car. Realizing something great had happened, he ran to his car to hear the good news.

Video highlights of the game are also classic.

The mass celebration as the ball is in mid-flight by fans on the hill looks as if the fans are riding a tidal wave that had thrust them into the air. All in all, that moment of the kick is by far the loudest single eruption of noise I have ever heard at a sporting event.

#9: Maryland 37 Clemson 20
Terps Win ACC At Tigers Expense
College Park is not necessarily the loudest place to play a football game, but this was no ordinary Maryland team and this was no ordinary game for the Terrapins.

With the possibility of winning an ACC Championship, an overflow crowd sat down in Byrd Stadium and proceeded to revel in every Maryland success and every Clemson failure. Gulian Gary's 10 yard touchdown run before halftime gave the Terps 17-6 lead.

The only score of the 3rd quarter was a Bruce Perry touchdown reception that gave Maryland a 24-6 lead. The 4th quarter is where things got ugly. A Novak field goal and a Marc Riley touchdown run gave the Terps a 34-6 lead.

In a game that was generally dominated by the Terrapins, Clemson's rare bright spot was a 101 yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Derrick Hamilton.

With time ticking down, the boisterous Maryland crowd threw oranges on the field signifying their impending tip to the Orange Bowl. In the process, they proceeded to revel it the win while rubbing it in to Clemson fans. College Park in generally not the most friendly place to visit on any day, but on this night it was worse. The celebration that Maryland reveled in also bled over into poor treatment of Clemson fans.

The sellout crowd that night is still a record for Byrd Stadium. Inside the press box at the stadium, a huge picture of the crowd and the field with the scoreboard in the backdrop adorns the walls. It was a big moment in the history of Maryland football, and it was a boisterous crowd that helped pull the Terps through on this night.

But it made for a pretty miserable experience for most of the Clemson fans in attendance.

#8: 1982 Clemson 22 Nebraska 15
Tigers Win Title in Front of "Home Crowd"
The listed crowd was 72,748 for the 1982 Orange Bowl. That crowd accounted for about 6,000 Nebraska fans and 15,000 neutral fans. The other 50,000 or so were traveling to support Clemson in its quest to win our first National Championship.

Nebraska fans did not know much about Clemson or its fans, but they would quickly find out as Tiger fans flooded to the Miami area. There was some concern that Clemson was in over its head against the talented Nebraska team, but some of that was quelled on the 3rd play of the game as William Devane recovered a Mark Mauer fumble. Homer Jordon led Clemson down to the 20 yard line before the drive stalled and Donald Igwebuike drilled a field goal to give Clemson a 3-0 lead.

Nebraska quickly answered on a halfback pass for a touchdown to lead 7-3. Clemson would kick another field goal in the 2nd quarter to cut the Cornhusker lead to 7-6. The momentum shifted in the 3rd quarter when Phil Bates fumbled and the Tigers took over and scored on a Cliff Austin touchdown. The enormous Clemson crowd began to sense that this game could be won.

The deal would be forever sealed when Homer Jordon hit Perry Tuttle in the left corner of the end zone to put Clemson up 19-7. The Orange Bowl crowd was now becoming almost completely pro-Clemson. Nebraska would rally, but it was Clemson's night as the Tigers won 22-15.

The entire south Florida area was flavored with Clemson fans celebrating in the streets. The celebrations continued all the way back into South Carolina as the State House flew a Clemson flag on its mast January 4th. The National Championship Clemson won on this humid night in Miami still marks only National Championship in Clemson football history.

#7: 1981 Clemson 13 Georgia 3
Hershel Walker Fumbles Away Game
The defending National Champion Georgia Bulldogs rolled into Death Valley on September 19, 1981 ranked #4 in the nation behind the running of tailback Hershal Walker.

Clemson, meanwhile, had opened the 1981 season with a win over Wofford and Tulane and was unranked on the young season. Coach Danny Ford, possibly trying to revive a little mysticism, broke out the orange pants for the 2nd time in history. Clemson had whipped archrival South Carolina the year before wearing orange pants, and the Tigers charged down the hill on this sunny day decked in all orange.

The Clemson defense then proceeded to completely shut down the Georgia offense. And the Clemson crowd began to sense the upset and began to get louder and louder. Tim Childers intercepted a pass that set up Clemson's only touchdown. Homer Jordon rolled to his right and found Perry Tuttle in the corner of the endzone to give Clemson a 10-3 lead. The catch by the outstretched Perry came right in front of the Clemson section, and as Perry hauled the pass in the crowd erupted in cheer.

Georgia would eventually have nine turnovers in the game as the Tiger defense was brutal all day long. The Clemson crowd assisted the Tiger defense and obviously affected the outcome of the game. Walker said afterwards, "I came in here knowing it would be loud and that Clemson would hit hard, but to me, the noise was the biggest factor. I know I didn't concentrate as well because of it". Walker would rush for 121 yards in the game, but he failed to score a touchdown. It was the only regular season loss for Walker while at Georgia.

And it was in large part to the Tiger crowd.

#6: 1981 Clemson 29 South Carolina 13
Tigers Complete Undefeated Regular Season Clemson entered the regular season finale in Columbia with an undefeated season and a chance to play for the National Championship at stake. The Gamecocks were 6-4 entering the game and the sellout crowd of 53,000 in Columbia would like nothing more than to ruin Clemson's chances.

The November 21st game was brutally cold in Columbia with temperatures not expected to get above the freezing mark during the game. The Gamecocks, possibly fueled by the loud and boisterous pre game crowd in Williams Brice, came out of the gates ready to play.

The Gamecock defense shut Clemson down on the Tiger's first 3 processions while the Gamecock offense moved the ball up and down the field on the heralded Tiger defense. Johnnie Wright capped a South Carolina drive by rushing for a touchdown to give the Gamecocks a 7-0 lead.

By this time, the noise inside Williams Brice was deafening. Gamecock fans smelled blood, and there was a sense of panic on the sidelines for the Tigers. After a South Carolina drive stalled, the Gamecocks set up to punt the ball from their own 28 yard line. Rod McSwain busted through the South Carolina line and blocked the punt by Chris Norman. As the ball rolled back into the end zone, Johnny Rembert fell out the ball directly in front of the Clemson section to give the Tigers a touchdown. Bob Pauling would miss the extra point, and the Gamecocks held onto a 7-6 lead.

The play completely changed the momentum of the game 180 degrees, and the Gamecocks had a hard time recovering. Hollis Hall intercepted a Gordon Beckham pass that set up a Clemson touchdown right before half.

But the Gamecocks held on, scoring a touchdown in the 3rd quarter to cut the lead to 15-13. But the Tigers took the ensuing kick and marched 84 yards for a touchdown on the way to a 29-13 win. Clemson's win completed the perfect regular season and placed the Tigers in the Orange Bowl against Nebraska.

With time winding down in the game, Clemson fans pelted the playing field with oranges to signify the accomplishment. But, it took a blocked punt to sway the tremendous momentum the Gamecocks and their fans had in the 1st half. McSwain's block has to rank with some of the biggest single plays in Clemson history.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the second part of Clemson's Most Electric Crowds.

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