One for the Books

Don Munson looks back on a memorable day in Clemson football history- the 1981 win over arch rival Georgia.

When the Tigers take to the field Saturday afternoon against S.C. State, it will be the same week (Sept. 19) Clemson hosted No. 4 Georgia 27 years ago.

Back in that magical year of 1981, the Clemson Tigers started off the season with a 45-10 win over Wofford and a 13-5 victory at Tulane. By today's means not exactly two spots in the win column that would excite the fan base, but two wins none the less.

However on September 19 of that year the fourth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs came marching into Death Valley. Remember, it was the defending National Champions, who just a year earlier had slipped by the Tigers 20-16 in Athens, GA.

It was also the same Bulldog team, who on their last trip to Memorial Stadium, went back home licking the wounds of a 12-7 Tiger defeat.

Simply put, for the two fan bases it was a contest that had been circled on the schedule for months and it would turn out to be one for the books.

Coming out of the 1980 season, there were some among the Tiger faithful who questioned whether Danny Ford was the right man to be the head coach of the Tigers. Clemson had gone just 6-5 the previous season, including a 2-4 record in the ACC, but a 27-6 victory over South Carolina to end the season seemed to calm the masses.

Still, Coach Ford made some changes on the staff during the off-season, bringing in Tom Harper to coordinate the defense and Nelson Stokely to direct the offense.

The great Herschel Walker ran the ball 28 times for 111 yards but never made it to the end zone. (photo by Frank Alexander)
And those changes would have a major impact on that Saturday in 1981 against the Georgia Bulldogs.

The game played through the first 15 minutes scoreless, but in the second quarter of the game Clemson finally struck first. Homer Jordan connected with Perry Tuttle from eight yards out for six. The point after touchdown would make it Clemson 7 and Georgia 0. The Clemson defense stood tough on the following drive and got the ball back in the offense's hands. A Donald Igwebuike 38-yard field goal would make it 10-0 Tigers at half.

But the job was only half done.

In the third quarter the only scoring was done by the Bulldogs, a 40-yard field goal from the foot of Kevin Butler, and going to the fourth it was Clemson 10 and Georgia 3.

Fifteen minutes was all that was left for the Tigers to post their greatest upset at home.

The Tiger defense was spectacular the entire day. Feeding off the frenzy of the crowd, Coach Harper's defense forced five Buck Belue interceptions and recovered four of the five Georgia fumbles.

The great Herschel Walker ran the ball 28 times for 111 yards but never made it to the end zone.

Not once.

Igwebuike put three more points on the board with a 29-yard field goal in the fourth, making the final Clemson 13 Georgia 3.

It was, at the time, a victory over the highest ranked opponent in Clemson history. It set off a celebration that is still talked about and cherished by the fans that were there and the rest of those who weren't.

Simply put, tt was the greatest victory ever on Clemson soil and it set the tone for what was to be as the Tigers would go on to win their lone National Championship on the gridiron.

So this Friday, September 19, 2008 as you are readying yourself for the first ever gridiron match-up with the Bulldogs of South Carolina State think about that day back in 1981 and wear your Orange proudly.


Sept. 15, 2008: Clemson 13 Georgia 3

CUTigers.com Top Stories