10 Best Moments of the Bowden Era

CLEMSON - Clemson may not have won a championship under Tommy Bowden, but the Tigers did have their moments. Bowden beat 10 Top 25 teams in his career, including five against Top 10 teams.

His 72 career wins are the third most in Clemson history and his eight bowl games are the third most bowl games an ACC coach has coached in.

Bowden also coached Clemson teams to bowl eligibility in each of his first nine seasons at Clemson. Only his father Bobby Bowden at Florida State, Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer and Texas' Mack Brown have accomplished that feat at the same school.

Bowden also enjoyed major success against Clemson's most bitter rival. He had a 7-2 record against South Carolina. His 77 percent win percentage was the best among all Clemson coaches against the Gamecocks.

Below, CUTigers.com put together a list of the top 10 victories in the Bowden era.

Dantzler dazzles at Maryland
October 16, 1999
Woodrow Dantzler broke a 52-year old Clemson standard for total offense in Clemson's 42-30 victory at Maryland. Dantzler gained 435 yards of total offense, including 183 yards on the ground, a record for yards rushing by a signal-caller at the time. Travis Zachery rushed for three touchdowns as well as Clemson's offense finally started to resemble what Bowden and offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez were able to accomplish at Tulane with quarterback Shaun King the previous two years.

Tigers rally from 17 down to beat UNC
October 21, 2000
Backup quarterback Willie Simmons came off the bench for an injured Dantzler and threw four touchdown passes as Clemson rallied from 17 points down to beat North Carolina 38-24 in Chapel Hill. It is still the Tigers' third largest deficit overcome to gain victory. The next day, undefeated Clemson moved up to No. 3 in the Coaches Poll, Clemson's highest ranking in the Bowden era as talks of a National Championship embraced Clemson nation.

Gardner saves the day with the 'Catch II'
November 18, 2000
South Carolina was poised for the victory after taking a 14-13 lead with 59 seconds remaining. Facing a 1st-and-goal at the Clemson 2, Derek Watson fumbled the ball as he was trying to reach over the goal line and Gamecocks tight end Thomas Hill recovered in the end zone. But all was not lost. Wide receiver Rod Gardner made a spectacular 50-yard catch on third and long with 10 seconds remaining to set up Aaron Hunt's 25-yard game-winning field goal in Clemson's 16-14 win over South Carolina in Death Valley. The play is still scrutinized by Gamecocks fans to this day as replays show contact made between Gardner and the South Carolina cornerback.

Dantzler carries Clemson in overtime over Tech
September 29, 2001
Clemson defeated Georgia Tech in Atlanta 47-44 in overtime when Dantzler scored on an 11-yard touchdown. Dantzler rushed for 164 yards and passed for 254 in a performance that brought him National Player of the Week honors. Georgia Tech was No. 9 at the time in the polls. It was Bowden's first win against a Top 10 team and Clemson's first road win against a Top 10 team since beating No. 8 North Carolina in 1981. By the way, in the Tigers' next game, Dantzler total 517 yards and was responsible for six touchdowns in Clemson's win over N.C. State in Raleigh.

Clemson tops No. 3 Seminoles
November 8, 2003
This was the first time everyone thought Bowden was done. The Tigers were coming off a 45-17 loss at Wake Forest from the week before and fans were calling for his job. After that game, Bowden came up to his players in the locker room and challenged them by saying they were going to beat the Seminoles the next week. That's exactly what happened. Clemson beat the highest ranked team in its history with a 26-10 victory. It was Clemson's first win over the Seminoles in 14 years and its first since Florida State joined the conference in 1992. Charlie Whitehurst threw for 272 yards and wide receiver Derrick Hamilton had 123 yards. Florida State had just 11 yards rushing. The win started a four-game winning streak that is still known as one of the school's best finishes to a season in history.

November 22, 2003
Clemson completed an unthinkable turnaround to close its 2003 season by destroying arch rival South Carolina by 46 points on national television - and the game wasn't even as close as the score would indicate. The Tigers moved ahead by 21 points within the first eight minutes of the game and never looked back. Just three weeks to the day after getting blown out at Wake Forest, the Tigers won their third consecutive game on their way to the Peach Bowl, where they beat No. 6 Tennessee 27-14.

Tigers upset No. 10 Miami
November 6, 2004
The Tigers, who returned to the Orange Bowl for the first time since winning their national championship in 1981, pulled off another stunner when it ousted No. 10 ranked Miami 24-17 in overtime. Clemson's defense was so strong in the second half that it forced the Hurricanes into five three-and-outs, four of which came in succession. Reggie Merriweather scored his third touchdown in overtime and rushed for 114 yards in the stunning victory. "They kept giving us the ball and opportunities and we knew we would eventually get our offense going," said Clemson wide receiver Airese Currie, who had seven receptions for 128 yards. "We came out and just made plays and that's what you have to do." Then Miami head coach Larry Coker had only lost four times in his career before this game. Strangely enough, the Tigers would lose at Duke the following week.

1st-and-35? No problem.
November 19, 2005
Clemson's game-winning drive was one for the ages. After suffering two consecutive penalties late in the fourth quarter trailing 9-6, the Tigers faced a first-and-35 from their own 22. And rather than panic and go for it in one big pass, they opted to try and pick up the yardage on three plays. The first play was a nine-yard pass to tailback James Davis to set up a second-and-26 from the 31. Next came a 14-yard pass to Chansi Stuckey to make it third-and-12 at the 45 to set up one of the major plays of the game. Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst took the snap and hit Curtis Baham on an out route for a gain of 28 yards to spot it at the South Carolina 27. "You can only get it one play at a time," Tigers offensive coordinator Rob Spence said. "That's what I admire our players for doing. They played it one play at a time and they executed the plays that we called to near perfection at that point in the game." The very next play with South Carolina still reeling from the first down, Davis busted it up the middle for a gain of 23 yards to give the Tigers first-and-goal at the 4. Two plays later, Davis crossed the goal line on a two-yard run to give Clemson its first lead of the game with 5:58 left to play. The Tigers would hold on to win 13-9.

Tigers rout Georgia Tech for GameDay
October 21, 2006
With ESPN's College GameDay on hand, Clemson put on a show in what was perhaps Bowden's top moment as Clemson's head coach. Behind the running of James Davis and C.J. Spiller, the Tigers defeated No. 13 Georgia Tech 31-7. Davis rushed for 216 yards and Spiller added 116 as Clemson rushed for 316 yards as a team. It was the first time Clemson had a 200-yard and 100-yard rusher in the same game as "Thunder & Lightning" were introduced to the rest of the nation.

Buchholz kicks Clemson past Gamecocks
November 24, 2007
Mark Buchholz booted a 35-yard field goal on the last play of the game to give Clemson a 23-21 victory over the Gamecocks. "I was just happy that the offense was able to drive down the field and give me another chance at it," Buchholz said afterwards. "It shouldn't have come down to that at the end. If I would have made one of the other ones, we would have been up by nine. But I'm happy I just got another shot and was able to put it through and we were able to get the win." Cullen Harper connected with Aaron Kelly four times for 70 yards on the final drive, including on 4th-and-4 to set up the game-winner. Clemson blocked two punts in the game, including one that was returned for a touchdown by La'Donte Harris.

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