A look back at the Tigers’ season - WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 - Charleston News, Sports, Weather

A look back at the Tigers’ season

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MIAMI (WCIV) – Clemson is set to take on Ohio State in the Orange Bowl Friday night in a stadium that Tigers fans remember all too well.

The Sun Life Stadium is the place where Clemson has won its only national title in 1981. But it's also home to a bit of history that does not shine nearly as bright. Just two years ago, Clemson was blasted by West Virginia, 70-33, a score that makes Tigers cringe. The memory is still fresh for many Tigers fans and they are looking to put it away Friday night.

"We got to move on, can't dwell on the past. We have in the back of our minds that we have something to prove," said Clemson defensive back Robert Smith. "We've had 31 wins since then. We deserve to be there."

Of course, the history between Ohio State and Clemson dates back to the 1978 Gator Bowl. That was Danny Ford's first game as Clemson's head coach and the final game for legendary Ohio State head coach Woody Hayes.

Clemson won that game 17-15, but it may be better known as the game Hayes punched Charlie Bauman.

Clemson comes into this year's Orange Bowl at No. 12 in the country. They are 10-2, and their two losses are bad ones to South Carolina and Florida State.

Ohio State was on the fast track to the national title game before being tripped up by Michigan State in the Big 10 title game.

Both teams have been in Miami for a week practicing for this year's Orange Bowl showdown. So much will be talked about with this quarterback matchup, too. Clemson's Tajh Boyd is arguably the best to ever suit up for the Tigers. He runs, throws, leads and wins.

But Ohio State has a pretty good quarterback in junior Braxton Miller. He's very similar to Boyd and can rack up a lot of yardage. He averaged almost 300 yards per game in Big 10 play.

"Going into the season, we were tow of 10 or 11 teams that could be in Pasadena," said Clemson's chief, Dabo Swinney

"To get there, we need to win this type of game. I'm asked about the season; it's part of the season. We're 12-1. 12-2 is different than 13-1. Winning a BCS bowl is big," said OSU head ball coach Urban Meyer.

For the Tigers, it's been a season of ups and downs. One man who has been along for the ride since the very beginning is Post and Courier Clemson beat writer Aaron Brenner.

The season started with a bang on national TV. The whole country watched in primetime as two title contenders and geographic rivals, Clemson and Georgia, faced off. The Tigers prevailed, 38-25.

"It was a huge opening statement. They did outlast UGA at that time, a full strength team. They hadn't unraveled like they did on the injury front, the way that Tajh performed in that moment showed he's a top short yardage quarterback," Brenner said.

The Tigers rolled through South Carolina State, North Carolina State, Wake Forest, before coming up against their next big opponent – Syracuse.

"There was all the hype for Syracuse. It was the first ACC game, really loud in there. Clemson came out and smoked them. They played very much like the No. 3 team in the country should on the road in that environment," Brenner said. "At that time everyone was thinking, ‘Could Pasadena be in the Tigers' sight?'"

They had the game of the year to start the season. But the 6-0 Tigers took on Florida State in the Valley, a game that could have been the game of the century.

"I don't want to say they were scared, but they weren't ready for the moment. FSU came out with a swagger about them. They came out, ignored the rock and the pageantry," Brenner said.

And the Noles dealt some damage, downing the Tigers 51-14. The Tigers were hurt and their homes and dreams took a beating.

"I do think the air was let out of the team, especially heading into the Maryland game because they did have dreams of Pasadena," he said.

There was a fork in the road for Clemson. With Maryland, Virginia, and Georgia Tech on the horizon, they had to decide what team they would be. They chose victory.

"The next three after FSU, they averaged 50 points. In the Maryland game, they had 40 on the road," Brenner said.

The season was looking eerily similar to one in the past. The Citadel game was a given, but the Gamecocks were looking. They had four straight rivalry losses coming into the USC game – and five going out.

"You can't fumble the ball six times and not get one take-away yourself and expect to beat anyone," Brenner said of the USC game.

That left Clemson at 10-2, not exactly where they wanted to be. Sure, Miami isn't a bad place, but it's not Pasadena.


  • Scott Eisberg

    Email: seisberg@abcnews4.com Reporter Profile




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