Dabo Swinney's Top-10 wins: Who can forget 4th-and-16 and the win over LSU?

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Nuk Hopkins had one of the best games of his career against LSU
Nuk Hopkins had one of the best games of his career against LSU

It’s no secret which game is number two.

A decade (plus some) of Dabo Swinney has produced some of the Clemson’s program biggest wins, two National Championships, four appearances in the College Football Playoff, and the ascension of the brand into one of the nation’s most recognizable.

It has also seen the program turned into one of the nation’s top two programs and arguably the nation’s top program at this point.

Swinney is 116-30 (.795) in 11 seasons (10 full seasons) at Clemson, including a 69-16 mark (.812) in ACC regular-season games at Clemson. Swinney is also 5-1 (.833) in ACC Championship Games and 9-5 (.643) in bowl games.

We decided to take a look at the 10 biggest wins during the Swinney era – biggest from a perspective of what the win meant to the program and on the national stage. We will take a look at the ten we’ve chosen over the next few weeks, and feel free to disagree with us. David Hood, Brandon Rink, and Nikki Hood also disagreed on the ten and where each game should rank.

Today we take a look at No. 2.

CLEMSON 25, LSU 24, DECEMBER 31, 2012

Why it made the list

To understand why this game was so important, you have to understand the talking points heading into the game. Clemson was coming off yet another loss to South Carolina, and the talking heads had determined that Clemson was too soft to compete with a physical LSU team. Everybody in the country knew LSU would win because A). They were in the SEC. B) They were more physical. C) They were in the SEC. D) They were in the SEC.

That bowl practice is memorable for more than one reason. The Tigers opened up the new indoor practice facility and cold and rainy weather meant Swinney was able to conduct every practice without the fear of rain or sleet.

Swinney also moved away from the “thud.” The thud is where a defender wraps his arms around a ballcarrier but doesn’t take him to the ground. That bowl practice was physical and it sent a message to his team.

Former defensive tackle Josh Watson told us in an interview that LSU, “puts on their pants one leg at a time, just like we do. We don’t think they are more physical than us.”

The Tigers came out and ran the HUNH offense to perfection, and the physical SEC team had players littering the field from the second quarter on.

Clemson won on the last-second field goal by Chandler Catanzaro, changing the perception of the program from the outside and maybe from the inside. Without 4th-and-16, who knows what would have happened?

Play of the game

The Tigers trailed LSU 24-22 when quarterback Tajh Boyd was sacked by LSU’s Sam Montgomery for a six-yard loss on 3rd-and-10, setting up a 4th-and-16 with 1:22 left on the clock. Clemson quickly called a timeout, and that is when senior tight end Brandon Ford told offensive coordinator Chad Morris the play he needed to run.

The play was called “Switch.”

“Brandon Ford comes over to the sideline, and we are in a huddle,” Morris said. “And Brandon says, ‘Coach, look, if you will call ‘Switch’ right here, I am telling you it will work. The play that just happened, the safety came over the top and was with me. If we run ‘switch’ I guarantee you that safety will go wide a little bit and we can get underneath him. I am telling you, coach.’ I said, ‘You know what, you are playing the game, and I’m not.’ So Brandon Ford actually called the play. We called it and it happened like it was supposed to.”

As Clemson fans well know, Boyd eluded the rush and threw a sinking line drive to a sliding Nuk Hopkins for a 26-yard gain to the Clemson 40-yard line and a Clemson first down.

Player of the game

Hopkins was there for key play of the game and he was there to move the chains all game.

Hopkins tied his own Clemson record with 13 receptions, totaling 191 yards and hauling in red zone scores from 11 and 12 yards out.

His final game as a Tiger saw him establish a Clemson single-season record for receiving yards (1,405).

The eventual Houston Texans' first-round pick broke ACC records with the performance too in consecutive games with a TD reception (10) and total touchdown catches (18).

Stat of the game

The victory meant Clemson reached the 11-win mark for the first time since 1981 and the fourth time in school history.

Swinney's Tigers have topped the win total each of the last four years now and at least matched it five of the last six.

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TigerBolt11
spacer I was at Great Wolf Lodge with wife and kids that night
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ddclemson
spacer THE GAME that established Clemson and Dabo Swinney as
Mike28712
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ddclemson
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gat1ger
spacer Shows how crap NFL draft analysts are...
ClemsonPoker489®
spacer Can we talk about the teams that didn't make the list?
Tiger2of3
spacer Re: Can we talk about the teams that didn't make the list?
EverettsNCTiger
spacer Such a great game.
Harley®
spacer I truly can't believe the basic omission of Tajh Boyd's
SOLOS®
spacer This game solidified Nuk as the Best WR of all-time at
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