Though the Tigers failed to win the ACC for the first time in four years, they did produce a third straight 10-win season and closed the year by winning their last five games, including a 27-7 rout of No. 17 West Virginia in the Gator Bowl. Clemson finished 1989 ranked No. 12 in the Associated Press' Final poll, but the biggest news of the season would not take place until after the Tigers' win over West Virginia.
No. 10 Clemson 34, No. 16 Florida State 23
Simply put, the final score was not indicative of what really took place that hot evening in Tallahassee. Clemson rushed for 255 yards, while the defense forced two turnovers and kept Florida State in check for better than three quarters as the Tigers avenged the "Puntrooskie Game" loss with a convincing 34-23 victory at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Clemson running back Terry Allen stunned the FSU crowd with two 1-yard touchdown runs and then linebacker Wayne Simmons came through with a 73-yard interception return for a touchdown to make the score 21-0 with 12:57 to play in the first half.
The win over No. 16 Florida State gave head coach Danny Ford a perfect 6-0 record in the state of Florida, including a 5-0 record in bowl games.
Clemson averaged over 7.1 yards per play that night, while defensively linebacker Doug Brewster had 12 tackles and corner Arlington Nunn recorded nine.
The win over No. 16 Florida State gave head coach Danny Ford a perfect 6-0 record in the state of Florida, including a 5-0 record in bowl games. It was just FSU's 10th home loss in the last 10 season and ended a 10-game home winning streak.
By the way, Florida State did not lose another game the rest of the year.
Oct. 21, 1989
Clemson 30, No. 12 N.C. State 10
After falling out of the top 25 for the first time in four years and with no shot at winning a fourth consecutive ACC crown following losses to Duke and Georgia Tech, Ford rallied his team by meeting with each of his seniors individually and telling them to just go out and have fun.
As a result, the Tigers closed out the regular season by winning their final four games by a combined score of 154-23, and it all started with a 30-10 victory over previously undefeated N.C. State, a team that had defeated Clemson three straight times.
Dressed in all orange, Wesley McFadden and Joe Henderson each had first quarter touchdowns for the Tigers and Gardocki booted a 24-yard field goal to give Clemson a 17-0 lead at halftime. Clemson got two more Gardocki field goals and a four-yard touchdown pass from Chris Morocco to Stacy Fields.
Clemson held N.C. State to just 67 yards rushing and intercepted quarterback Shane Montgomery three times. Dexter Davis led the defense with a career-high 10 tackles and also had an interception. Gardocki also proved to be a weapon with three field goals and seven punts for a 46-yard average.
The win was Ford's 17th over an AP Top 20 team.
Nov. 18, 1989
No. 15 Clemson 45, South Carolina 0
Clemson continued its dominance over rival South Carolina with an impressive 45-0 blowout in Columbia. It was the Tigers' seventh win in the rivalry since 1980 and 10th since 1976. The 45-point win also marked the second largest margin of victory over the Gamecocks and the greatest since 1900.
It was also the first time a Clemson team had shut out the Gamecocks since 1959.
Allen scored two first-quarter touchdowns to get Clemson out to a 14-0 lead and then a Gardocki field goal and a Morocco 12-yard touchdown pass to Rodney Fletcher gave Clemson a 24-0 lead at the break. Allen finished the first half with 97 yards on 14 carries before leaving the game with a knee injury. It was the last time he carried the ball with a Clemson uniform on.
Tony Kennedy had a 30-yard run in the third quarter and Howard Hall added a 22-yard run in the fourth to make the score 38-0. Kennedy finished off the scoring with a 1-yard score with 9:54 to play.
Clemson gained a season-high 355 yards rushing and 466 total, while Morocco was 5-for-5 throwing the ball for 45 yards and a touchdown. Defensively, Clemson held the Gamecocks to a season-low 155 yards of total offense, including 36 yards passing.
The Tigers recorded four sacks and had three interceptions.
Dec. 30, 1989
1989 Gator Bowl: No. 14 Clemson 27, No. 17 West Virginia 7
Once again, the Clemson running game was magnificent, while the defense was even better as Clemson defeated West Virginia and Heisman Trophy Finalist Major Harris 27-7.
Levon Kirkland and Chester McGlockton helped team up to stifle a potent West Virginia offense in the 1989 Gator Bowl.
Clemson held the Mountaineers powerful offense to 237 total yards, while the Clemson offense got a workman like 257 yards on 61 carries.
The Tigers wore West Virginia down and scored 17 unanswered fourth quarter points to put the game away. As a matter of fact, Clemson scored the game's last 27 points after the Mountaineers opened the game with a 90-yard touchdown drive.
Defensive tackle Chester McGlockton, who led the ACC in sacks, stripped Harris of the ball near his goal line and then fell on the ball in the end zone for one of the Tigers' three touchdowns. McFadden and Joe Henderson had the other two scores. Gardocki kicked field goals of 27 and 24 yards.
Henderson led Clemson with 92 yards, while Morocco had 65 and Kennedy had 57.
However, the victors of the Gator Bowl were short lived when Ford stepped down as head coach on Jan. 19, 1990. No one knew, including Ford himself, that the Gator Bowl, like his first, was his last game as Clemson's head coach.
In his 11 years at Clemson, Ford produced a 96-29-4 record, which included a 6-2 bowl record. He left Clemson at the time as the third winning-est coach in the country in terms of win percentage. He was only behind Nebraska's Tom Osborne and Penn State's Joe Paterno on the list.