#5: 2003 Clemson 27 Tennessee 14
Tiger Fans Take Over Georgia Dome
From the moment it became official that Clemson was headed to Atlanta, you knew this would not be a normal Peach Bowl for Clemson fans. Almost immediately, Clemson fans scarfed up tickets from anybody that was willing to sell them. The Clemson ticket office was overwhelmed by the demand, having to refund thousands of orders.
Clemson fans even tried to buy tickets through eventual opponent Tennessee, with some success in certain instances. But the true enormity of how many Clemson fans bought tickets for this game did not become clear until you made your way into the Georgia Dome. Of the 72,000 fans in attendance, at least 50,000 of those were Clemson fans.
Tiger fans almost circled the lower and upper decks of the Georgia Dome minus the endzone area where most of Tennessee's fans resided. When Clemson took the field to Tiger Rag, the ensuing C-L-E-M-S-O-N spelling shook the rafters of the Dome.
When Duane Coleman danced into the end zone to give Clemson a 7-0 lead, it was very obvious that this was a home game for Clemson in many ways. Aaron Hunt would add a field goal and Clemson would lead 10-0 on their way to a 24-14 half time lead.
In the 2nd half, the Clemson defense held Tennessee scoreless, and the fervor of the crowd built with each stop. When it was all over, Clemson had whipped Tennessee 27-14 and the 50,000 Clemson fans celebrated wildly as if they had just won the National Championship.
In an ironic twist of fate, Tennessee is often said to have the most loyal fans in college football because they fill the 100,000 seat Neyland Stadium on most nights. But on this January night in Georgia, it was the Clemson fans that looked like kings and queens.
#4: 1999 Florida State 17 Clemson 14
Bowden Bowl I
It still ranks as the largest crowd in Death Valley history at 86,092 fans and it will most likely never be eclipsed because of security concerns.
From the day Tommy Bowden was hired at Clemson, Bowden Bowl I was destined to be the talk of the 1999 season for Clemson. Clemson's surprisingly good play (the Tigers were entering the game at 2-1 in the ACC) coupled with FSU's #1 ranking only added to the emotion.
Throw in some controversy (Peter Warrick's antics before the game) along with a 7:45 start time and you had the recipe for an electric crowd. When Clemson jumped out to a 14-3 halftime lead, the emotion overflowed in Death Valley. Fans spent most of the game standing and yelling to the point of almost exhaustion as Florida State finally pulled ahead 17-14 before eventually winning by that score.
If you look at the portrait of the game that is in every picture store, you will see the emotion in the crowd. At the time the picture was taken (3:55 left in the 3rd quarter), Clemson held a 14-6 lead. Florida State had the ball, and if you look into the stands you will see almost every single fan standing on their feet.
Most still think the buzz of that day ranks as one of the biggest in Death Valley history, and had the 2nd half had more scoring by Clemson and if a Clemson win would have happened, this game most certainly would have been ranked at the top of this list. Exactly how many people were in Clemson that night is not known. While most regard the 2000 Clemson/South Carolina game to have the most people outside the stadium as any game in Clemson history, Bowden Bowl I would rank right behind that.
#3: 1992 Florida State 24 Clemson 20
"Welcome To The ACC" Party For FSU
Back in 1992, nobody could have dreamed that FSU was about to dominate the Atlantic Coast Conference for the next 12 years. The first ACC clash between Clemson and FSU in Death Valley was supposed to be one of many classic duels between two national powers. Unfortunately, Clemson was about to take a slide backwards and that duel would not occur in the 1990's.
But on this September evening, Clemson and Florida State were caught in a great duel that had an electrified Death Valley on the edge of its seat. Thousands of orange pom poms were distributed before the game, and the sea of orange that it created was a perfect backdrop to the ESPN cameras and the national television audience.
Charlie Ward was making his first start as a quarterback, and things did not look great for FSU early as he threw interception after interception. When James Trapp stepped in front of a Ward pass and exploded 50 plus yards into the endzone, Death Valley was awash in excitement. After the Trapp touchdown that gave Clemson a 20-10 lead, all of Death Valley was mocking the FSU Tomahawk Chop using the orange pom poms.
Unfortunately for Clemson, Ward was coming of age in mid game under the direction of offensive coordinator Brad Scott. Ward led the Seminoles back and eventually completed a 96 yard drive for a touchdown late in the game to seal the win for the Seminoles.
Back in 1992, night games were still a rare event in Clemson. I think this night showed Clemson fans how electric a night game can be. The electricity that enveloped this game was one of the things Tommy Bowden remembered when he interviewed for the Clemson job in 1999.
On this one night, Clemson fans left Death Valley thinking that this is what they were going to expect with FSU from now on as the Seminoles were now in the ACC. Little did we know then, it would be 11 years before the Seminoles would lose to Clemson.
#2: 1987 South Carolina 20 Clemson 7
Black Magic and Brad Edwards Ruin the Game
The Gamecocks were in the midst of an 8-4 season when the season ending game with Clemson commenced from Williams Brice Stadium. Clemson entered the game 9-1 and ranked 8th in the nation to contrast the 12th ranked Gamecocks.
Prior to the game, Vice President George Bush came onto the field and chatted with South Carolina head coach Joe Morrison. The 7:30 start time for ESPN was set against a frigid evening in Columbia as a crowd of 77,000 gathered. The 2001 entrance by the Gamecocks was recorded in its entirety by ESPN, and many Gamecock fans still regard that entrance on that night as the best it have ever been.
Clemson quickly quieted the crowd by driving 94 yards for a touchdown that was scored by Wesley McFadden. The Gamecocks would get two Collin Mackey field goals to cut the Tiger lead to 7-6 at halftime.
Late in the 3rd quarter Todd Ellis hit Ryan Bethea across the middle that went for 77 yards before Donnell Woolford pulled him down at the Tiger 6. Harold Green barreled in and the Gamecocks had a 13-7 lead. And the crowd became deafening.
After a few stalled drives with the backdrop of the boisterous crowd, Clemson took over with less than 6 minutes left in the game. Rodney Williams threw a screen pass to his right and Brad Edwards stepped in front of it and returned the interception 40 yards untouched to give the Gamecocks a 20-7 lead. Those in the stadium that night heard a roar unlike many ever heard when Edwards scampered into the endzone. Williams Brice is notorious for the swaying in the upper decks, but the entire stadium shook and swayed when the interception took place.
The Gamecocks were on their way to winning, but not before they harassed Columbia native Rodney Williams.
Chants of "Rod-ney, Rod-ney" echoed through the stadium as the final minutes clicked off the clock. Clemson only managed 166 total yards of offense on this night, the lowest by a Danny Ford coached team at Clemson.
And the experience, at least for Clemson fans, was miserable. This night was memorable for the Gamecocks, but it would be another 14 years before the Gamecocks would win again in Williams Brice. But this crowd in 1987 earned a deep amount of respect from this Clemson fan that sat through it from start to finish. I have never before heard such a crowd at Williams Brice, and I have not heard one sense.
#1: 1987 Clemson 21 Georgia 20
Treadwell "Kicks His Heart Through The Goal Posts"…Again
Clemson entered the 1987 game against Georgia in Death Valley ranked #8 while the Bulldogs clocked in at #20. The Tigers had stunned Georgia the year before on a David Treadwell kick in Athens, and the Bulldogs most certainly had revenge on their minds.
A nasty rain enveloped Clemson as CBS carried the game nationally in hope for a repeat of the dramatics from 1986 between these two teams. Clemson handed out orange pom poms and the Tigers came out in all orange for the 81,875 in attendance. Many have heard the legend of Brent Musburger saying that Clemson coming down the hill is "the most exciting 25 seconds in college football". This is the game he made that statement as the Tigers came down the hill.
The first half was a back and forth affair, but Georgia had seized the momentum in the second half. The Bulldogs pulled ahead of Clemson with less than 5 minutes remaining on a touchdown run to lead 20-16. Clemson could not make anything happen on their next procession, so Rusty Seyle was called on to punt. Seyle hit the biggest punt in Clemson history that was downed inside the Georgia one yard line.
After a run up the middle for no gain, the Clemson fans smelled blood. Sensing an opportunity to get some great field position by forcing Georgia to punt, the Clemson faithful were on their feet and screaming. On second down, Georgia quarterback James Jackson took the snap and rolled left on an option keeper. But James Lott met Jackson head on before he could get out of the endzone and the Tiger defense had forced an unbelievable safety to cut the lead to 20-18. And the Death Valley crowd roared its approval.
After the ensuing punt, Terry Allen took over slashing his way down the field on play after play. Allen ran the ball inside the Georgia 15 yard line with less than 20 seconds remaining. The Tigers were out of time outs, and Coach Danny Ford sent David Treadwell out to attempt the game winning kick as the clock clicked and clicked and clicked. The tension in the stands was unbelievable. Could Treadwell get the kick off in time? If so, could he drill it and beat Georgia again for the 2nd straight year?
Musburger told the television audience that "the crowd will tell you the story." And they did. Treadwell's kick was true and a thunderous roar let everybody know that Clemson had once again stunned Georgia. Sitting in the upper deck, I could feel the shaking. They say Williams Brice's upper decks rock (and they do). But on this afternoon the north upper deck was swaying as we celebrated. That is the last year that I have sat in the upper deck at Clemson, but I've never heard anybody say that it has shaken since.
While there have been many electric crowds in the history of Clemson football, I'm hard pressed to find an afternoon where the crowd was more into a game than this one.
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