Next stop, Miami

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Dabo Swinney celebrates Clemson's win over Ohio St.
Dabo Swinney celebrates Clemson's win over Ohio St.

CLEMSON – Next stop, Miami.

No. 1 Clemson will battle No. 4 Oklahoma on New Year’s Eve in the Capital One Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium. The trip will be Clemson’s sixth trip to the Orange Bowl and the Tigers are 3-2 in the previous five appearances.

The Orange Bowl has been the site of Clemson’s biggest football triumph and the program’s most disappointing defeat. Clemson claimed the 1981 National Championship with a 22-15 win over Nebraska in the 1982 game, but lost 70-33 to West Virginia in the 2012 game.

A look back at Clemson’s Orange Bowl history:

1951 Orange Bowl – Clemson 15, Miami (FL) 14

Clemson won its first appearance, 15-14, in the 1951 Orange Bowl at the end of the 1950 season over Miami (FL). It is the only time Clemson has played a bowl game against a team playing in its home stadium. Clemson was the first Southern Conference team to be invited to the Orange Bowl when it played in the 1951 event.

The Tigers won that game as middle guard Sterling Smith tackled Miami running back Frank Smith in the endzone for a safety with six minutes left. Miami’s Harry Mallios had returned a Fred Cone punt 79 yards for a touchdown on the play before the drive started, but Miami was called for clipping and was backed up to their own eight. After two plays that had clipping calls against the Hurricanes, they had the ball at their own one. That is when Sterling Smith stopped Frank Smith in the endzone for a safety and a 15-14 advantage.

The game was not over however as Fred Cone fumbled on Clemson’s next possession and Miami had the ball at the Clemson 24. But, Smith came through again with a 10-yard sack of the Hurricanes quarterback to stop the drive.

1957 Orange Bowl – Colorado 27, Clemson 21

Clemson went to the 1957 Orange Bowl as ACC Champions. Colorado was the opposition and the Buffalos took a 20-0 lead at halftime. Clemson coach Frank Howard threatened to quit when he talked to his team at halftime if their play did not improve. The team took it to heart and took a 21-20 lead in the fourth period. But, Colorado recovered an on-side kick at midfield (Clemson had earlier recovered an on-side kick), and Colorado drove to the winning touchdown.

1982 Orange Bowl – Clemson 22, Nebraska 15

After 86 years of playing football, Clemson claimed its first National Championship with a 22-15 win over perennial Big Eight power Nebraska in the 48th Orange Bowl on the first day of January in 1982.

After a 13-3 win over 1980 National Champion Georgia at home on September 19, the Tigers worked their way to the number-one ranking in both wire service polls by the end of the regular season when Penn State beat number-one ranked Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving Day, 48-14. The quarterback for Penn State that day was Todd Blackledge, who will broadcast the Clemson vs. Oklahoma game for ABC. The win over the Cornhuskers gave Clemson the national title and its third perfect season in history. Nebraska took the kickoff, but three plays later, Tiger middle guard William Devane recovered quarterback Mark Mauer’s fumble at the Nebraska 33. Clemson quarterback Homer Jordan drove Clemson to the Nebraska 24 before the drive stalled, and Donald Igwebuike drilled a 41-yard field goal to put the ACC Champions up, 3-0.

Nebraska came right back, however, as the Big Eight title holder drove 69 yards in eight plays to score on a 25-yard halfback pass from Mike Rozier to Anthony Steels. Kevin Seibel’s extra point gave Nebraska the lead at 7-3 with 6:43 to go in the first quarter.

After an exchange of punts, the Clemson offense moved from the Nebraska 42 yard line to the 21 to set up Igwebuike’s second field goal. The 37-yard boot narrowed the score to 7-6. A second-quarter Phil Bates fumble gave Clemson the ball at the Nebraska 27, and the running combination of Jordan, Kevin Mack, and Cliff Austin moved the ball to the Cornhusker two.

Austin, who had been stuck in the hotel elevator for two hours earlier in the day, scampered in for the score that gave Clemson a lead it would not relinquish. On its second possession of the second half, Clemson drove 75 yards in 12 plays to score its final touchdown of the night, a 13-yard pass from Jordan to All-American receiver Perry Tuttle the corner of the end zone. It was Tuttle’s eighth touchdown grab of the season, which set a school record at the time. Bob Paulling’s extra point put the Tigers ahead, 19-7.

Tuttle’s catch was shown on the cover of Sports Illustrated the following week, the first time a Clemson student-athlete (active at the time) was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. (No Clemson athlete had been on the cover since then until this year. Deshaun Watson has been on twice.)

After Billy Davis’s 47-yard punt return, Jordan moved the Tigers to the Nebraska 20, where Igwebuike kicked a 36-yard field goal, his third of the evening, to put Clemson ahead 22-7 with two-and-a half minutes left in the third stanza. Nebraska was down but not out. After a near-interception by Johnny Rembert, Mauer engineered an eight-play, 69-yard drive that was capped by a 26-yard run by Roger Craig. After a penalty, Craig ran in the two-point conversion from eight yards out to close the gap to 22-15 with nine minutes to play.

The Clemson defense shut down the Big Red on their final extended drive, then the offense held on to the ball for nearly five-and-a-half minutes to run down the clock to six seconds. Andy Headen deflected Mauer’s desperation pass to preserve the win and the championship for Clemson.

Jeff Davis (who is now an assistant AD at Clemson and will travel to Miami for this game) led the Tiger defense with 14 tackles in his final game. He also recovered a fumble, giving him a school-record eight for his career. Bill Smith, now on the Clemson Board of Trustees, added a career-high 10 tackles from his defensive end position in his final game as a Tiger. Both Davis and Smith have sons on the current Clemson team.

2012 Orange Bowl – West Virginia 70, Clemson 33

West Virginia defeated Clemson 70-33 in the 2012 Orange Bowl after the 2011 season. Clemson had entered the game by virtue of its ACC Championship, the first for the school in 20 years.

Clemson held a 17-14 lead at the end of the first quarter. Trailing by 21-17 in the second period, Clemson drove to the West Virginia two, but Andre Ellington fumbled at the one and Darwin Cook raced 99 yards for a touchdown to give West Virginia a 28-17 lead instead of a 24-21 Clemson advantage. Clemson never recovered from the 14-point swing.

2014 Orange Bowl – Clemson 40, Ohio St. 35

Clemson won the 2014 Orange Bowl over Ohio State, 40-35 in one of the most thrilling games in Clemson history. Tajh Boyd led the Tigers in his last game with 505 yards of total offense. He completed 31-40 passes for 378 yards and five touchdowns and added 20 rushes for 127 yards and a touchdown. The 505 yards of total offense set a Clemson record for a bowl game.

Sammy Watkins had 16 receptions for 227 yards and two scores. The reception total and yardage are both Clemson single game records and Orange Bowl marks. It was also Watkins’ final game as he turned professional after his junior year.

Stanton Seckinger caught a five-yard pass from Boyd with 6:16 left to put Clemson ahead, 40-35. There was an exchange of turnovers after that, but an interception by Stephone Anthony cemented the win for the Tigers.

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