But the resignation of Danny Ford following the 1989 Gator Bowl win and the problems that came with it, did not leave the program as some might have hoped. By the time the season rolled around, new head coach Ken Hatfield was still trying to win over his players as well as a Clemson fan base that was still upset with the administration.
The Tigers tried to overcome those pitfalls and were ranked No. 9 in the Associated Press Top 25 when they visited No. 14 Virginia in Week 2. To that point, no Clemson coach had lost to Virginia and with Hatfield trying to win over an angry fan base, this might have been the biggest game of his tenure. Unfortunately for him, Clemson was outplayed and beat up by a physically better Virginia team and subsequently the Cavaliers got their first win over Clemson, 20-7, and Hatfield never heard the end of it.
But this is supposed to be about good moments in Clemson football and, despite the loss to Virginia, the Tigers had a lot of them in 1990 on their way to being the first ACC team to record four straight 10-win seasons and a final No. 9 national ranking.
Clemson defeated maryland 18-17 thanks in part to a safety.
No. 16 Clemson 18, Maryland 17
Hatfield would later call this the most important victory of the season. It was big for many reasons, but most importantly it brought the Clemson team back together following that difficult loss to Virginia the week before.
It also marked the first time Clemson won a game at Baltimore's old Memorial Stadium as Clemson used a safety to help lead it to the one-point win.
Doug Thomas recorded a 98-yard kickoff return for a score in becoming the first Tiger to return two kickoffs for a touchdown in the same season and a career. He later caught a 37-yard pass that setup an 11-yard scoring pass from DeChane Cameron to fullback Rudy Harris for the game winner with 7:59 to play. It was the first touchdown pass to a fullback at Clemson since 1972.
After falling behind 14-10, the Clemson defense held the Terrapins to 63 total yards in the second half and forced three interceptions. Two of those came from Dexter Davis, who grabbed one with 2:23 to play to seal the victory. Nose guard Rob Bodine had a career-high 12 tackles and a sack.
Oct. 6, 1990
No. 16 Clemson 34, Georgia 3
Any win over the Georgia Bulldogs has always been huge for the Clemson program, but beating the Bulldogs by 31 points has to go down as one of the best moments in Clemson football history.
At the time, it was Georgia's worst defeat by anyone in 13 years. Prior to this game, nine of the last 11 games in the series had been decided by a touchdown or less, but on this day, Georgia never crossed the Tigers' 25-yard line and only scored on a minus-6-yard drive following a Clemson fumble at its own 25.
The Clemson defense held the Bulldogs to just 131 yards of offense, including 50 yards passing in the win. Linebacker Doug Brewster had a blocked punt, nine tackles and two tackles for a loss, while Ed McDaniel had 10 tackles.
On offense, freshman running back Ronald Williams rushed for 128 yards and two touchdowns in pacing a Clemson ground game that rushed for 341 yards on 66 carries. Williams had a 51-yard run in the first quarter to give the Tigers a 10-0 lead. He later scored on a five-yard run in the fourth quarter. Harris finished the afternoon with 64 yards on 17 attempts.
Oct. 20, 1990
No. 22 Clemson 24, N.C. State 17
Clemson got its first win in Raleigh since 1984 with a come-from-behind 24-17 win over N.C. State. With the Tigers trailing 14-3, Dexter Davis turned the momentum of the game when he returned a second-quarter fumble 52 yards to pull within five at the break.
The Wolfpack, who scored on their opening two drives of the game, gained just 135 yards after that play. Clemson took a 17-14 lead in the third quarter when Terry Smith hauled in a 14-yard touchdown pass from Cameron.
After N.C. State tied the score with a field goal, the defense won the game for Clemson when Vance Hammond sacked N.C. State quarterback Terry Jordan and stripped the ball loose at the Wolfpack six. Brewster recovered the fumble and a few plays later fullback Howard Hall ran in from a yard out with 3:12 to play.
DeChane Cameron was named the MVP of the Hall of Fame throwing two touchdown passes and 141 yards. The Clemson quarterback also led all rushers with 76 yards.
The Tigers did not lose another game that season.
Jan. 1, 1991
1991 Hall of Fame Bowl: No. 14 Clemson 30, No. 16 Illinois 0
Clemson scored 24 points in the first 21 minutes of the game to register its largest margin of victory ever in a bowl game. Cameron completed 14-of-19 passes and Arlington Nunn had his third interception for a touchdown that season.
Clemson's defense, which led the nation in total defense, held Illinois' powerful offense to 59 yards rushing and just 247 total-157 yards below its season average. They sacked Illinois quarterbacks five times, intercepted them twice and forced one fumble.
Cameron, the game's MVP, threw two touchdown passes to Thomas (14 yards) and Hall (17 yards) while throwing for 141 yards. The Clemson quarterback also led all rushers with 76 yards.
The Tigers preserved their third shutout of the season when they forced an Illini fumble at the Clemson 8, which McDaniel recovered. McDaniel led the Clemson defense with 12 tackles, while John Johnson had two sacks.