The Tigers entered the 1988 season ranked No. 4 in the country-still the highest preseason ranking in the program's history-and they moved up to No. 3 following impressive wins over Virginia Tech and Furman to open the season.
However, Clemson fell out of the national championship race in Week 3 as
No. 10 Florida State defeated the Tigers in the famous "Puntrooskie Game"
at Death Valley. It was the first battle of top 10 teams in the history of
Death Valley. Clemson had the Seminoles deep in their own territory late
in the fourth quarter with the score tied, 21-21, when Bobby Bowden ran a
fake punt that resulted in Leroy Butler going 78 yards to the Clemson
three. FSU later kicked a field goal to win the game.
After that, Clemson went on to win eight of its last nine games, including
five straight to close the season and finished No. 9 in the final
Associated Press Top 25 Poll.
Oct. 8, 1988
No. 11 Clemson 10, Virginia 7
At this point in the series, Clemson had never lost to Virginia as the
Tigers posted a 27-0 record against the Cavaliers all-time. But Virginia
had turned the corner with its football program and was becoming a factor
in the ACC race on a yearly basis.
The Cavaliers were definitely a factor in the 28th meeting between the two
schools, especially when quarterback Herman Moore found wide receiver
Shawn Moore on a 14-yard alley-oop touchdown that gave Virginia a 7-3 lead
with 5:27 to play.
Clemson took over at its own 20-yard line and drove to the Virginia 14.
Chip Davis lined up at wideout without any defensive coverage and Rodney
Williams took advantage of the situation by changing the play at the line
of scrimmage and hitting Davis for a 14-yard score with 1:52 to go.
The Tigers' defense then stepped up and shut the Virginia offense down to
preserve the 28th straight victory over the Cavaliers. Virginia gained
just 280 yards of offense on 61 plays, while Clemson running back Terry
Allen rushed for 145 yards, including 55 on the game-winning drive.
The Cavaliers finished the 1988 season with a 7-4 record.
Oct. 15, 1988
No. 11 Clemson 49, No. 22 Duke 17
In a nationally televised game on ESPN, Clemson's defense embarrassed
Steve Spurrier's undefeated Duke team, 49-17. It was also the coming out
party for future NFL All-Pro Levon Kirkland, who harassed Duke quarterback
Anthony Dilweg all afternoon long.
A redshirt freshman at the time, Kirkland forced the nation's top passer
into two interceptions and a fumble, while sacking him one time and
hitting him countless others. Kirkland finished the day with six tackles
and two forced fumbles, while four different players recorded an
While the defense was dominating the Blue Devils, Clemson's offense rushed
for 388 yards and finished the day with 533 overall. Allen rushed for 134
yards and a touchdown while fullback Tracy Johnson had 76 yards and two
Third string quarterback DeChane Cameron threw a 79-yard touchdown pass to
Gary Cooper on a halfback pass in the first quarter which gave Clemson a
14-0 lead at the time. Cameron lined up at tailback and caught the Duke
defense off guard for an easy score.
Cooper later caught an 11-yard pass from Williams to give Clemson a 21-0
lead at the start of the second quarter.
Besides Kirkland, linebacker Ed McDaniel led the defense with 12 tackles,
while defensive tackle Mark Drag had eight. Freshman cornerback Dexter
Davis had four passes broken up, while Gene Beasley, Dorian Mariable,
Arlington Nunn and Donnell Woolford each grabbed an interception.
Despite the bad outing against Clemson, Dilweg went on to win ACC Player
of the Year honors, while the Blue Devils finished the season 7-3-1.
Nov. 12, 1988
College Park, Md.
No. 16 Clemson 49, Maryland 25
Clemson won its third straight ACC crown and a trip to the Citrus Bowl
thanks to a 49-25 victory at Maryland.
Allen rushed for 110 yards to go over 1,000 for the season, while Williams
passed Steve Fuller in career passing yards with a 139-yard effort.
The Tigers scored 28 points on just nine plays in the fourth quarter to
break open what was a 21-17 lead heading into the fourth quarter. In all,
the Clemson offense rushed for 373 yards and totaled 512 overall. Cooper
and Allen each scored two touchdowns, while kicker Chris Gardocki had two
field goals, including one from 51 yards.
Kirkland led the Clemson defense with 13 tackles, a sack and two more
tackles for a loss, while Jesse Hatcher had 12 tackles and a sack and
Beasley had 10 tackles.
Nov. 19, 1988
No. 15 Clemson 29, No. 25 South Carolina 10
Williams, the winningest quarterback in Clemson history, finished his
home career with 192 yards passing, while running for a touchdown as well
as the Tigers crushed archrival South Carolina 29-10. It was Clemson's
first win over the Gamecocks since 1985 after a tie in 1986 and a loss in
Columbia in 1987.
Gardocki hit three field goals to give the Tigers a 9-0 lead and then
Allen went in from 8 yards to make the score 16-0. After a Gamecocks'
score, Johnson scored from a yard out for a 22-7 Clemson lead and then
Williams, who was made fun of from the South Carolina fans following the
loss the year before, put an explanation point on the victory when he took
it in on an option keeper from 7 yards out.
Doug Brewster was the leading tackler with 14 tackles, while Hatcher had
11, plus a 13-yard sack. He also caused two fumbles and had two
Jan. 2, 1989
1989 Citrus Bowl: No. 13 Clemson 13, No. 10 Oklahoma 6
Clemson held on to beat Oklahoma when Davis knocked downed Jamelle
Holieway's pass in the end zone as time expired. It marked the first time
in history that a team from the ACC beat Oklahoma and it allowed the
Tigers to finish ninth in the final AP Poll, their first top 10 finish
since winning the National Championship in 1981.
With the score tied 6-6 late in the third quarter, Clemson started a
15-play, 80-yard drive which Allen capped off with a four-yard run with
10:28 to play. Allen, the game's MVP, rushed for 25 yards and caught two
passes for 17 more on the drive.
From there, Hatcher and the Clemson defense took over as he caused and
recovered a fumble on the next drive. Oklahoma, however, got one last shot
as Holieway drove the Sooners from their own 20 to the Clemson 14 to setup
the game's dramatic last play.
Hatcher finished the afternoon with nine tackles, two tackles for a loss
for 33 yards, including an 18-yard sack on a third-and-goal play, and had
four quarterback pressures. The Clemson defense held the Sooners vaunted
wishbone rushing attack to a season-low 116 yards.
Feeding the need (part VI)
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