No. 5 – 1989 Citrus Bowl
DATE: January 1, 1989
SCORE: No. 14 Clemson 13, No. 10 Oklahoma 6
GAME SUMMARY: Defenses dominated this warm afternoon in Orlando, Fla., as the ACC Champion Clemson Tigers held off a late Oklahoma charge to become the first team in the history of the ACC to beat Oklahoma on the gridiron.
Freshman cornerback Dexter Davis knocked down Jamelle Holieway's pass in the end zone on the game's last play to preserve the 13-6 Clemson victory. Clemson was led by running back Terry Allen, who scored on a 4-yard touchdown with 10:28 to play for the game's only touchdown.
The two defenses combined to yield just 498 total yards. The biggest play of the game came in the first quarter after Oklahoma drove to the Tigers' one. On second-and-goal Holieway kept the ball on an option play and tried to pass, but the Tigers harassed him all the way to the 19-yard line where linebacker Jesse Hatcher sacked him for an 18-yard loss. The Sooners later had to settle for a 35-yard field goal and never got any closer to the Clemson goal line.
The Tigers again ended the season 10-2 and finished ranked No. 8 in the AP poll, No. 9 in the Coaches Poll and No. 10 in the USA Today top 25.
Why was this win important? Clemson became the first ACC-school to beat Oklahoma in football.
No. 4 – 2004 Peach Bowl
DATE: January 2, 2004
SCORE: Clemson 27, No. 6 Tennessee 14
GAME SUMMARY: The Clemson Tigers capped an impressive end to the 2003 season with a 27-14 victory over No. 6 Tennessee in the Peach Bowl. It was the Tigers' fourth straight victory and was the second win over a top 10 team that season. Clemson also beat No. 3 Florida State that year, the first time since 1981 Clemson had beat two top 10 football teams in the same season.
Clemson jumped out to a 24-14 halftime lead and then held the Volunteers scoreless in the second half. Tennessee managed just 38 rushing yards all afternoon. Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst threw for 246 yards, while running back Chad Jasmin finished his career with 130 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
The most memorable play of the game came late in the second quarter with the Tigers at the Tennessee 8. On third-and-goal, Whitehurst took the shotgun snap and handed the ball to running back Kyle Browning between his legs. Whitehurst then carried out a fake option to the right, while Browning hesitated and then ran left for the touchdown. The play, known as "The Panther", put the Tigers ahead 24-14 at the break.
The win over Tennessee propelled Clemson into the top 25 in both polls at No. 22 with a record of 9-4.
Why was this win important? It was Clemson's second win over a Top 10 team that season, the first time since 1981 that had happened. It also proved that the win over Florida State was no fluke.
No. 3 – 1949 Gator Bowl
DATE: January 1, 1949
SCORE: No. 11 Clemson 24, Missouri 23
GAME SUMMARY: The Clemson Tigers capped a perfect 11-0 season with a one-point victory in the fourth annual Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla. Running back Fred Cone had two touchdowns, while running back Ray Mathews rushed for 73 yards and Bobby Gage threw for 112 yards and another score.
Jack Miller's 32-yard fourth quarter field goal gave the Tigers a 24-16 lead, proving to be the game-winner. The win over Missouri marked the first time a Clemson team finished a season perfect since 1900. Clemson's 11 wins were the most in the country that season, two more than Michigan and Notre Dame which finished the year 9-0. The Tigers finished the season ranked 11th in the country by the Associated Press.
Why was this win important? It marked the first time since 1900 a Clemson team went undefeated and at the time was the most wins in a season for any Clemson team.
No. 2 – 1978 Gator Bowl
DATE: December 29, 1978
SCORE: No. 7 Clemson 17, No. 20 Ohio State 15
GAME SUMMARY: What did not happen in this game? Clemson capped an 11-1 season with a 17-15 victory over Ohio State, but that was the least of the stories to come out of it.
Just 19 days before the bowl, then Clemson coach Charlie Pell left Clemson to become the new head coach at Florida. The next day, Clemson named 30-year old assistant coach Danny Ford as the head coach. All he does in his first game as a head coach is beat legendary coach Woody Hayes, who is fired the next day after he punched Clemson second-team middle guard Charlie Bauman.
Hayes punched Bauman after the sophomore intercepted an Art Schlichter pass to end the Buckeyes' last shot at a victory. Hayes' punch caused both benches to clear and consecutive unsportsmanlike penalties on Ohio State. Lost in the melee was the fact Clemson got a Gator Bowl record 47-yard field goal by Obed Ariri and a school record 22 tackles from Bubba Brown.
The win extended Clemson's win streak to 10 games – the nation's longest at the time – and a No. 6 final ranking in the polls.
Why was this win important? The win allowed Clemson to finish the year in the Associated Press Top 10 for the first time since 1950, while the 11 wins tied the 1948 team for the most wins in a season. It also marked the Tigers' first bowl victory since the 1959 Bluebonnet Bowl.
No. 1 – 1982 Orange Bowl
DATE: January 1, 1982
SCORE: No. 1 Clemson 22, No. 4 Nebraska 15
GAME SUMMARY: The Clemson Tigers did the unthinkable on this hot and humid night in the Orange Bowl, beating powerhouse Nebraska, 22-15, to claim the program's first and only national championship.
Thanks to three Donald Igwebuike field goals, a Cliff Austin 2-yard touchdown and a 13-yard Homer Jordan to Perry Tuttle score, the Tigers knocked off the heavily favored Cornhuskers. Jordan, the game's MVP, threw for 134 yards and ran for another 46 to guide the Clemson offense, while All-American linebacker Jeff Davis led a Tiger defense which held Nebraska's potent running game and offense to just 256 total yards.
The Tigers finished the year with a perfect 12-0 record and the No. 1 ranking in both wire service polls.
Why was this win important? It clinched the National Championship. It also solidified Clemson as one of the Top 20 football programs of all-time. The 12 wins also set a school-record for wins in a season, and it marked the first time a Clemson team went undefeated since the 1948 team went in 11-0.
PART II: Clemson's Top 10 Bowl Wins
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