Bowden Puts His Stamp on Clemson Football

by - Correspondent -
The Tigers' win over Miami was perhaps the second biggest win in school history.

Special to TigerNet from the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger

Miami --
Clemson's 24-17 win at the Orange Bowl Saturday did a lot of things for the football program.

It moved the Tigers one win from its sixth straight postseason bowl appearance, gave them a chance to finish in the upper level of the Atlantic Coast Conference standings, and it will surely help recruiting.

But what it did more than anything was give head coach Tommy Bowden a strangle hold on the football program. Even with wins over Florida State and Tennessee to close the 2003 season, plus a $4 million contract buyout, Bowden still wasn't totally accepted by the Clemson faithful.

After this year's 1-4 start, fans were lighting up the phone lines on radio talk shows and jamming Internet site message boards about the terrible state of the Clemson program. Fans had forgotten all about last season, and for the most part they didn't care to remember.

Some fans, but not all, were even saying the two dreaded words ­ Danny Ford ­ that caused one Upstate talk show host to force a moratorium on his name.

Though Bowden wasn't going anywhere, it was still evident he didn't have the full support of the Clemson fans. He was still living up to Danny Ford's image.

But as the Tigers celebrated with the 5,000 or so Clemson fans that had made the journey to South Beach Saturday, it was evident Bowden didn't have to live up to Coach Ford's image anymore, ­ he's starting to form his own.

On almost the exact day when he guided his Tigers to perhaps the second biggest win in school history, he guided his troops to the school's biggest road win since a 16-10 come-from-behind victory at Notre Dame in 1979.

What Bowden has done with three wins over top 10 teams, ­ while at the same time not being ranked himself, ­ over the course of the last 365 days is something not even Coach Ford did.

Ford's unranked teams recorded one win against a top 10 opponent, and that was a 13-3 win over a No. 4 Georgia squad in 1981. In fact, Ford never again faced a top 10 team with an unranked Clemson team.

During his 11 years, Ford had five total victories against top 10 squads, while legendary head coach Frank Howard won just two games over top 10 foes in his 30 years as Clemson head coach.

In just six seasons, Bowden already has four,­ two of those on the road.

Like Ford and Howard, ­ two coaches who guided Clemson to the national stage, ­ Bowden is now making a name for himself in Clemson lore.

So how big was beating Miami in the Orange Bowl? Just ask Tommy's daddy ­ Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden. The elder Bowden is just 4-10 all-time against the 'Canes in the Orange Bowl and is 11-18 overall.

And to put it more into perspective, Bobby has yet to beat Miami's Larry Coker in five tries.

Saturday's win, however, just isn't measured by how Bobby has done against the 'Canes. Just look at what Miami has done to all of its opponents the last 20 years.

- Miami was 174-2 when leading after three quarters since 1985. The Tigers trailed 17-10 entering the fourth quarter before gaining the win in overtime.

- Miami was 174-15 when scoring first since 1983. Miami scored first in this game, going 68 yards in five plays on its first possession.

- Larry Coker was 41-4 for his career as the head coach at Miami entering this game. That included a 22-3 record at night.

- Miami had won 18 consecutive night games in the Orange Bowl dating to a 27-20 overtime loss to Virginia Tech in 1998.

- Miami had been 103-8 against unranked opponents since 1990.

- Miami had been 52-5 in the 21st century, the best record in college football.

Now, knowing all that. How big was the Miami win? How big is it to beat a top 10 team on the road on national television?

Let's just say it is bigger than beating a top 3 opponent at home on television. It is bigger than beat your archrival 63-17 and it is bigger than beating the No. 6 ranked team in a bowl game.

What Clemson accomplished in the Orange Bowl can only be topped by what the

1981 Tigers did in that same venue almost 23 years ago.

And what it did for Tommy Bowden was finally win over a Clemson family that has been separated for 15 years.

Special to TigerNet from the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger

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