It's hard to imagine, but this was the end of an era that saw the Tigers record 15-straight non-losing seasons, one national championship, seven ACC titles, seven bowl victories, 10 bowl appearances and six 10-win seasons, while posting a 133-37-6 record.
The 1991 Tigers won six straight games to close the regular season, while earning the program its 13th and last ACC Championship. The 1991 team was loaded with talent as seven starters returned on offense and five from a defense that led the nation in total defense in 1990.
With future NFL players like Levon Kirkland, Brentson Buckner, Chester McGlockton, Ashley Sheppard, Wayne Simmons, Ed McDaniel, Eric Geter and Larry Ryans, the Tigers, along with Georgia Tech and Virginia, were picked to contend for the ACC Championship once again.
With a No. 8 preseason ranking, Clemson did not disappoint to start the season as Ken Hatfield's second team won its first two games over Appalachian State and Temple by a combined score of 71-7. That setup a rematch with defending national champion Georgia Tech in Week 3, which is still considered one of the most physical games that was ever played in Death Valley.
Sept. 28, 1991
No. 7 Clemson 9, No. 19 Georgia Tech 7
This proved to be a game for the ages as both defenses dominated. Clemson's offense could put up only 277 total yards in 75 plays, while Georgia Tech ran 70 plays and didn't fare much better with 282 yards.
Georgia Tech got 84 of its yards on a first-quarter scoring drive and then very little after that.
Behind 1990 ACC Rookie of the Year Ronald Williams' 102 yards, the Tigers were able to put up one last drive as he scored the game-winner from two yards out with 2:06 to play. Williams rushed for all 46 yards on the six-play drive.
Georgia Tech, behind quarterback Shawn Jones, drove to the Clemson 27-yard line, but Scott Sisson's 44-yard field goal attempt to win the game was wide right and the Tigers celebrated a close victory. The year before, former kicker Chris Gardocki missed a long field goal attempt as time expired in a two-point loss in Atlanta.
Clemson nose guard Rob Bodine led the defense with a career-high 13 tackles, including four tackles for a loss. Bodine was an All-American in 1991, the Tigers last on the defensive line until Gaines Adams earned those honors in 2006.
The win also marked the Tigers' 11th consecutive victory in Death Valley— a Clemson record.
Oct. 26, 1991
No. 19 Clemson 29, No. 12 N.C. State 19
After a loss to Georgia and a tie at home against Virginia, the Tigers returned from a bye week unsure of what laid ahead on their road to an ACC Championship. Though talented, the team was confused about why they struggled in the previous two games and what they could do to get through it.
What Hatfield did was spark a six-game winning streak when he broke out purple jerseys in the locker room after pre-game warm-ups to rally the team and the fan base for a very important game against No. 12 and undefeated N.C. State.
It was the first time since 1939 that Clemson had worn purple jerseys. The result, the Tigers jumped out to a 23-7 halftime lead in positing their best all-around half of the year, including 297 yards of total offense.
Kicker Nelson Welch booted five field goals to tie a Clemson single-game record, while quarterback DeChane Cameron led the offense with 143 yards passing and 79 yards rushing. The Tigers rushed for 256 yards, while Cameron completed 14-of-23 passes in the win.
The defense, which led the nation in 1991 in rushing defense, allowed just 10 yards on the ground and just 301 for the game overall. They also had six sacks. Bodine again led the Tigers with 10 tackles, including three tackles for a loss and two sacks. Kirkland had eight tackles and a sack.
Nov. 9, 1991
Chapel Hill, N.C.
No. 15 Clemson 21, North Carolina 6
For the third straight season, the Clemson defense kept the Tar Heels out of the end zone as they physically wore down the upstart North Carolina team 21-6 on a cold, rainy night in Chapel Hill.
Cameron again was the Tigers' offense spark as he rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns, while throwing for 90 more. His 117 yards were the most rushing yards by a Clemson quarterback since 1976 and the first 100-yard day by a quarterback since Homer Jordan did the same during the magical 1981 national championship season.
Cameron's 41-yard touchdown in the second quarter put the Tigers on top to stay. The Tar Heels, who could have pulled in a tie with Clemson for first place with a win, came within 7-6 in the third quarter, but two fourth-quarter touchdowns from fullback Rudy Harris and Cameron sealed the victory for the Tigers.
Linebacker Ed McDaniel led the defense with a career-high 15 tackles, while Bodine, Buckner, Chuck O'Brien and David Davis each had two tackles for a loss. The Tigers held North Carolina to just 181 total yards and nine first downs.
Nov. 16, 1991
No. 15 Clemson 40, Maryland 7
This game is only considered one of the program's best moments because this is the win that clinched Clemson's last ACC Championship in football.
The Tigers dominated Maryland in this game. Clemson had a very balanced attack with 230 yards rushing and 230 yards passing, while the defense was once again tough. They allowed just 39 yards on 31 carries and recorded five sacks. The Terrapins totaled just 214 yards in 61 plays.
Freshman cornerback Darnell Stephens had an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown in the game, while racking up 116 return yards overall. Wide receiver Terry Smith had 120 receiving yards including a 43-yard touchdown reception and another one for 52 yards that setup another score.
McDaniel had 10 stops to lead the defense, while Bodine had eight tackles, including three for a loss. Clemson had 14 players record at least one tackle for a loss in the game.
The Tigers improved to 5-0-1 in the ACC with the win and later completed their first undefeated season in ACC play since 1983 with a 33-21 win over Duke two weeks later in Tokyo, Japan.
Nov. 23, 1991
No. 14 Clemson 41, South Carolina 24
Clemson's seniors became just the second class since 1950 and the first one since 1983 to post a perfect 4-0 record against South Carolina thanks to a 41-24 victory.
The Tigers used 17 unanswered points in the third quarter to blow the Gamecocks out as Rodney Blunt rushed for a 26-yard score and Harris added a six-yard run to give Clemson a 34-10 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Clemson gained 228 yards of total offense alone in the third quarter.
Cameron had one of the best games by a quarterback in Clemson history that afternoon as he completed 12-of-14 passes for 206 yards and rushed for 116 more. His 85.7 percent completion mark broke the single-game record at Clemson, while his 322 total yards ranked as the third best in Clemson history and best since 1965.
Smith caught five passes for 117 yards to become the first Clemson receiver since Jerry Butler in 1978 to record back-to-back 100 yard games. He had a 25-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter.
Harris had a one-yard scoring run in the first quarter and Cameron scored from 31 yards out in the second quarter, while Welch booted field goals of 21 and 22 yards.
The Tigers finished the game with 503 yards of total offense, while holding USC to 15 yards rushing and picking off two passes and recording three sacks.
Kirkland led the defense with two sacks, while McDaniel had nine tackles. Bodine again had two tackles for a loss as Clemson recorded eight overall in the game.
Feeding the need (part IX)
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