produced Clemson's second ACC football Championship. The team compiled a 5-1-0 conference, and 8-3-0 overall record, on the way to a season ending No.12 National ranking. The teams delight at winning the ACC was tempered somewhat by the fact that second place No.15 South Carolina had beaten us in the head to head meeting on Big Thursday. But, there was a reward for a good season at the end.
For the first time since 1929, Presbyterian was not the season opener for the Tigers. I suspect the Blue Hose were happy to be dropped from the Clemson schedule. Also, for the first time in our history, we opened the season in the Top 20 national rankings, at No.18. But, pollster voters are fickle, and even though Clemson came away from the opener with a hard fought 20-15 win over unranked Virginia, the perceived struggle knocked us out of the rankings for our next game.
That game was North Carolina, and the Tigers once again won a close contest, 26-21. The pollsters evidently really liked that, as we suddenly reappeared in the rankings, all the way up to No.10, for our road encounter with Maryland. Another hard fought, low scoring 8-0 win for Clemson was the result.
Now up to No.8, we again struggled on the road, but took another low scoring win over Vanderbilt. This dropped our ranking to No.10 for Big Thursday against the Gamecoots. Our lack of offense finally caught up with us, as the Dirtpeckers came out on the good end of a 26-6 score. Clemson now led the series 32-21-3. The next year, 1959, would prove to be the last of the Big Thursday games.
Clemson would go 4-1 the rest of the way in the regular season. The lone loss was a 13-0 shutout against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at our personal House of Horrors, Grant Field. That loss knocked us out of the rankings for one week, but a 13-6 win over NC State on the road the next week got us right back in, at No.16.
Clemson finally found some offense in the last two games, home wins against Boston College 34-12, and Furman, 36-19. This 8-2 overall record got us a No.12 national ranking, and an invitation to the 1959 Sugar Bowl, where we would face the No.1 ranked LSU Tigers, led by Coach “Pepsodent Paul” Dietzel. LSU's fine defense was known as “The Chinese Bandits”.
Clemson had a pretty doggone good defense as well, but LSU and the great Billy Cannon came out a winner, shutting out the Clemson version of Tigers by a 7-0 score. That was good enough for LSU to be named National Champions by the AP and UPI.
For Clemson, this season would always be a kind of “What if”? Had the Tigers mustered any kind of a consistent offense, the defense could have carried us to a Natty of our own. But, we would have to settle for fighting the actual National Champion almost to a standstill before a huge crowd of 80,331 fans.
Virginia vs No. 18 Clemson W 20–15 North Carolina W 26–21 At Maryland No. 10 Clemson W 8–0 At Vanderbilt No. 8 Clemson W 12–7 At South Carolina (Big Thursday) No. 10 Clemson L 6–26 (Clemson leads series 32-21-3.) Wake Forest No. 19 Clemson W 14–12 At Georgia Tech No. 17 Clemson L 0–13 At NC State W 13–6 Boston College No.16 Clemson W 34–12 Furman No. 12 Clemson W 36–19
January 1, 1959 Sugar Bowl No. 1 LSU vs No. 12 Clemson L 0–7