news in 2001, to be sure, but the one that Americans instantly recall occurred on September 11, 2001. That was the day that crews of Al-Qaeda jihadists hijacked four commercial jetliners, flying two of them into the World Trade Center Twin Towers, a third into the Pentagon, and crashing a fourth into a rural area near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. It would later be revealed that the hijackers destination for that fourth plane was to have been the US Capitol. A heroic group of passengers on that Flight 93 found out what had already happened to the other three planes, and fought back to force the hijackers to alter their plans and crash the plane to keep them from regaining control of it. Their simple rallying cry of “Let's Roll” is a haunting reminder of their last minutes on earth.
Those passengers were the first fighters in what now was suddenly a War against the terrorists of Radical Islam. 343 Police, Firefighters, and Port Authority workers lost their lives when the Twin Towers collapsed that day, killing over 3300 innocent Americans in all. “Never Forget” shouldn't just be a slogan, it should be a way of life. It took almost ten years before Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind the attacks, was killed by American Seal Team Six. But, like a Hydra, Al-Qaeda just seems to grow another head. Justice will never truly be done as long as Radical Islam is taught to children as a way of life.
The college football season had barely gotten underway when 9/11 happened. After a weeks worth of games were either cancelled or rescheduled for later dates, college football resumed, and was used as a healing balm to try and calm the frayed nerves of a nation that desperately wanted a return to normalcy.
The ACC Champions for 2001 would be No. 11 Maryland (7-1, 10-2), who finally broke the decade long stranglehold Florida State had on the ACC title. Maryland would take a No. 6 ranking down to the Orange Bowl, to face No. 5 Florida, who embarrassed them and the ACC, routing the Terps 56-23.
The National Champions for 2001 were the 12-0 Miami Hurricanes of Coach Larry Coker. They came about as close to running the table for the national rankings as anyone has come. They opened ranked No. 2, but blistered Penn State in Happy Valley 33-7 before a mammoth crowd of 109,313 fans to open the season. This got them up to No. 1, where they spent most of the season. They would cap off their undefeated season by beating No. 4 Nebraska in the Rose Bowl, by a score of 37-14. To date, this is still Miami's last National Championship.
Tommy Bowden had “quietly” hired ex-USuk Head Coach Brad Scott to be a Clemson assistant following his ouster at South Carolina, and made him his Offensive Coordinator starting this season. Coach Scott would also prove to be a great recruiter in this role. We opened the season ranked No. 19, but a lackluster 21-13 win over UCF in the Valley, before 81,482 fans, got us dropped down to No. 20 for a 38-14 win over the Wofford Terriers on September 8th. When 9-11 happened, our next game with Duke on Sept. 15 was rescheduled for the end of the season. Our next outing would be Sept. 22nd, where the Tigers were upset at home by Virginia 26-24. We were toppled out of the rankings, but rebounded the next week to beat No. 8 ranked Georgia Tech, AT Bobby Dodd, 47-44. Hmm, lose a game we should have won, win a game we should have lost. Was this going to be a trend?
We took a No. 16 ranking to Carter-Finley Stadium to face the Wuffies, and came away with a high scoring 45-37 road win. This got us bumped up to No. 13 for a home game against unranked North Carolina. The whole nation watched us get blasted on ESPN2, 38-3, on my birthday. Unhappy Birthday to me. Now out of the rankings for good this season, we next cobbled together a close 21-14 road win at Wake Forest. Did I mention Wake Forest always seemed to give Tommy Bowden fits? File this away, it WILL come up again.
For the next three weeks, we would face ranked teams, and prove we didn't belong in the rankings, for sure. First up, Florida State, who was having an unusual down year, but still ranked No. 13. Pappa Bowden didn't spare the rod or spoil the child, thumping us 41-27 in Death Valley. The next week, Maryland now sat at No. 13, and we lost to No. 13 for the 2nd week in a row, 37-20. The third ranked team in a row would be the No. 22 South Carolina Gamecocks. Granny had his charges at 7-3, but they came into this game having just been blasted by No. 5 Florida to the tune of 54-17. So, they were licking their wounds as they welcomed us to The Roach.
They won the game 20-15, after a late touchdown which featured a play very similar to the previous year's Rod Gardner “Catch II”. Only this time, it was a South Carolina player who made the play. Granny smiled and quipped, “It wasn't a push-off last year, so it isn't a push-off THIS year.” Ah, rivalry games, you gotta love 'em. Clemson now led the all time series 59-36-4. Granny would take his Coots to their 2nd straight Outback Bowl, where, in a true scheduling anomaly, they would once again face Ohio State, and once again beat the Bucknuts, 31-28, to finish a fine season at 9-3.
Who knew that when the Duke game was postponed due to 9/11, that Clemson would find ourselves in the unenviable position of needing a win in this game just to be bowl eligible? But, that was the case, and the Tigers managed to get it done, in a high scoring 59-31 offensive shootout. Even so, a bowl bid was not automatic, and I remember the fanbase actually doing things to lobby for an invite to the lowly Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho. We got the invite, and on Boise State's blue carpet, we defeated a Louisiana Tech team coached by Jack Bicknell, Jr by a score of 49-24, to finish Tommy Bowden's 2nd season at 7-5. All 2001 season results below.
UCF No. 19 W 21–13 Wofford No. 20 W 38–14 Virginia No. 19 L 24–26 At No. 8 Georgia Tech W 47–44 At NC State No. 16 W 45–37 North Carolina No. 13 L 3-38 At Wake Forest W 21–14 No. 13 Florida State L 27–41 At No. 13 Maryland L 20–37 At No. 22 South Carolina L 15–20 (Clemson leads the series 59-36-4.) Duke W 59–31
December 31 Clemson vs. Louisiana Tech (Humanitarian Bowl) W 49–24
I’m so grateful for coach Dabo & his joy, leadership, culture, faith, development system, vision and love for building into young mens lives so they can be the best version of themselves.
I’m thankful for the recruits who love Clemson and have invested as much in the Clemson family as the Clemson has invested in them.
I’m thankful for what’s been accomplished over the last 21 years to put the Clemson brand on top of the hill academically, athletically and the Family has come together with a huge goal of excellence in all things.
I’m thankful for the best spoiled fans in all of college football, like our grandchildren we spoil, our fans have been spoiled to winning at unprecedented levels.
I’m thankful for another fun filled season to enjoy how it will play out, hopefully we win them all but if we don’t we will continue to strive for excellence no matter what our record is because we are the Clemson Family.
Thank you Lord for bringing us all together as Clemson with a goal of excellence in all of lives to honor you for blessing us so greatly!