Clemson Defense Brings up Memories of 1981

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON - In 1981, Clemson won its only national championship with a strong running game and a defense that was relentless. With the 1981 team being honored at halftime of Saturday's 52-7 win, No. 19 Clemson honored that squad with the same fire and intensity.

Clemson (3-1, 2-1 ACC) rushed for 324 yards on offense, while the defense held the Tar Heels to a measly 150 yards.

"We wanted to come out from the start and show there was going to be no let down," said Clemson safety Chris Clemmons. "We came out with a lot of enthusiasm and we took it to them."

The Tigers took it to UNC (1-3, 0-2) with a running game averaged 5.6 yards per carry and totaled 504 yards of total offense. On defense, Clemson harassed quarterbacks Cam Sexton and Joe Dailey, while holding the Tar Heel running game, which was averaging 146.3 yards a game coming in, to 54 yards on 22 attempts.

"It was important to make stops early on," defensive end Gaines Adams said. "The offense showed they could score points. We just wanted to get them the ball back as quick as we could."

In 1981, Clemson's defense dominated opposing offenses, forcing a school record 41 turnovers, while ranking second in the nation in scoring defense, seventh in rushing defense and eighth in total defense.

"It was a total team win," Adams said. "I mean we played good, but the offense, the defense and the special teams had a great day.

"After the last two weeks, it was nice to be over there on the sidelines for most of the third and fourth quarters."

After allowing a first time on the Tar Heels' second play of the afternoon, Clemson's defense allowed just three more yards the entire first quarter.

"Our defense kept putting the ball right back in our hands," said Clemson quarterback Will Proctor.

North Carolina's next three possessions and four of their last five in the first ended in three-and-outs.

"We wanted to come out and dominate and that's what we did," Clemmons said.

Clemmons had three passes broke up, plus a third quarter interception which setup a C.J. Spiller touchdown.

"The defense sets the tone throughout the game," Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said. "Overall, our defensive performance is what is going to keep us over the top."

Overall, the Tar Heels ran 45 offensive plays and averaged just 3.3 yards a play. If it wasn't for an 80-yard drive against the third- and fourth-team defense, they would have been held under 70 total yards. All this against an offense which ranked third in the ACC in total yards coming in.

"We knew Clemson had a very good football," North Carolina head coach John Bunting said. "They played very well. They took it to us."

Generous gift.

Clemson's 1981 team was the one being honored at halftime, but it instead of receiving all the gifts as part of the 25th Anniversary of their national championship, they handed one out themselves.

While being honored at halftime, the '81 team pledged $1 million to the WestZone project.

Touchdown machine.

Clemson running back James Davis scored four touchdowns Saturday, giving him nine for the season. He has now scored at least one touchdown in eight straight games, and has scored at least two touchdowns in four of the last seven games.

Davis has 18 for his career.

Fast start.

Clemson scored 21 first-quarter points Saturday, the first time it has done that since scoring 21 against South Carolina in the first quarter of a 63-17 victory. The last time Clemson scored 21 points in a quarter in an ACC game --- Duke in a 59-31 victory in 2001.

300 and counting.

Clemson rushed for 324 yards in the win against North Carolina, the most by a Clemson team since the Duke game of 2001. It was also the 100th time a Tiger team rushed for more than 300 yards in a game.

Seven is the magic number.

The Tigers rushed for seven rushing touchdowns Saturday, the first time since 1982 against Duke. It also marked the first time North Carolina history a Tar Heel defense gave up seven touchdowns in a game.

50 plus.

Clemson's 52 points against North Carolina was the second straight home game in which the Tigers scored 50 points. The Tigers opened the season with a 54-6 victory over Florida Atlantic. In two home games, Clemson has outscored its opponents 106-13.

First time.

Clemson held the football for 38:17 compared to UNC's 21:43. The 38:17 set a record for time of possession for Bowden coached team.

Practice works.

Clemson kicker Jad Dean was true on all seven of his extra points and made a 42-yard field goal in the third quarter Saturday. It was the first time all season, Dean did not miss a kick in a game.

"That's my fault," Bowden said. "I should have paid closer attention to what was going on during the preseason and such so that was my fault. I take complete blame. I'm just glad it did not have an effect on his confidence."

Courtesy of Journal / Messenger

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