|1980 Game 3: Georgia 20 Clemson 16|
The week of the Clemson game, we moved up in the poll from 12 to 10. That was cool, being in the Top 10. And Clemson was coming to town. That was always special, because of the game atmosphere. The fans were always hyped up for this one. They got us 12-7 in ’79, so we expected another tough, low-scoring battle. But this time, the outcome would be different.
Sanford Stadium was rocking that day. Fans were standing 5 deep on the bridge and the tracks to get a view of the game. The attendance was listed at 61,800, but that didn’t account for all those fans watching outside.
Danny Ford’s Tigers were 1-0, after a 19-3 win over Rice. They took the field wearing all white and white PONY shoes. It sounded like a bomb going off when Scott Woerner led us onto the field in those silver britches, red tops, and a mix of shoes. Most guys went with either Riddell or Converse. Puma was my choice (liked those wings on the side). Nike would take over in ’81. Coach Dooley hit the field in some red slacks, following us onto the field. Anyway, Woerner, Amp Arnold and Pat McShea were our captains. Clemson called the coin toss, by legendary referee Robert Aillet, got it right, and took the ball. Immediately, Woerner turned to our bench and came running towards us all fired up. The packed house erupted again. It was time to play ball.
This one started with a bang. Athens product (Cedar Shoals HS) Homer Jordan got the start at QB for Clemson. We all knew and liked Homer. He played high school ball with our All-Star DT Jimmy Payne and hung around a lot during the summer.
Clemson ran a pro-set, I-Formation scheme that featured the typical iso runs, but they also ran a lot of option/counter option plays. Their passing game consisted of roll-outs, with out-cuts by their star receiver Perry Tuttle. Homer alternated that day with Mike Gasque.
The Tigers went 3 and out and punted to Woerner, who caught it at our own 33. As always, Scott immediately accelerated straight up field through a crack. He cut back and was gone. He took it 67 yards for a touchdown and Sanford Stadium went absolutely nuts. Woerner kneeled down and rolled dice with the ball, which drew a flag, and was swarmed by everyone in a ‘Dog uniform. His big day was far from over.
Clemson got the ball back and went on a 14-play drive that ended with Obed Ariri coming up short on a 47 yard field goal. We went 3 and out and the Tigers moved the ball on a 13-play drive.
It was time for Woerner to save the day. On 3rd and 9, from our 11 yard line, Homer rolled left and tried to fit it in a tight window for a TD. Scott stepped in front of the receiver and took off down the Clemson sideline. That was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen on the football field…Scott sprinting down the sideline, the length of the field. No one was going to catch him…except Clemson RB Chuck McSwain, who could fly. McSwain ran Scott down at the 2 yard line, after Woerner galloped 100 yards. Sanford Stadium shook.
On 2nd and goal, from the 1, I took the snap on a QB sneak, hopped over Hugh Nall, took a shot from MLB Jeff “The Judge” Davis, and just broke the plane for a 14-0 lead.
Clemson had run 30 plays to our 5, in the first quarter, and trailed 14-0, thanks to Scott Woerner. Amazing.
Crazy start to the 2nd quarter too. On 3rd and 9, Homer Jordan rolled right, got hit by LB Nate Taylor and fumbled. Forts and Parks jumped on it and we were in business on the Clemson 25. On 2nd and 9, I hit Amp for a 20 yard gain and he got stripped at the Tiger 2. Clemson recovered in the end zone for a touchback.
The Tigers went on a 19-play drive. Ariri kicked a 49 yard field goal, but they took points off the board, when we were called for off-sides. They took the first down. Moments later another crazy play goes down, but this time it goes Clemson’s way.
Tigers had it 2nd and goal, from our 1 yard line. They go with the I-formation iso/lead play and LB Nate Taylor puts his hat on the ball. Cliff Austin fumbles. The ball pops out and flies outside the hash marks, where nobody is at. Tiger QB Mike Gasque runs out, picks it up at the 3, and runs it in for a touchdown. It’s now a 14-7 game.
After we went 3 and out, Clemson would drive for an Ariri FG. We led at the half 14-10. They had run 41 plays to our 9. Herschel had 6 carries for 12 yards. I was 1-2 throwing it. Thank goodness for Scott Woerner! Clemson had just stuffed us on offense. They put 8 in the box and we couldn’t block them all. Simply put; it was frustrating. Lindsay Scott had not touched the ball once.
We needed to utilize the quick passing game or max protect and take some shots deep, but we planned to do neither. The play-action pass wasn’t effective because we weren’t able to run it. Never understood that part of the scheme. We almost always went with play-action, even on 3rd and long situations. Always thought it was silly to have the QB turning our back to the defense, instead of reading coverage. But what are you going to do? Speak out and you get punished.
Haffner encouraged us to take the 2nd half kick-off and get the running game going. Told us the defense was “carrying us.” Well, yeah.
We got it and went on a 10-play drive. Herschel ran it 4 times and gained 34 yards. I picked up a couple of 1st downs on a couple of scrambles. Rex Robinson drilled a 43 yard FG and we led, 17-10.
Clemson turned it over in the next possession. Robert Miles stepped in front of a crossing route and intercepted a Gasque pass. That set us up at the Clemson 31. Couple of plays later, I hit Amp in the end zone, but DB Hollis Hall made a nice play to break it up. We settled for Rex’s 27 yard FG and took a 20-10 lead.
Tigers got it back and drove down the field on another 10-plus play drive (Erk’s defense was bending, but not breaking). They caught a break when Freddie Gilbert roughed the punter, which allowed the drive to continue. On 3rd and 9, Homer Jordan got sacked by buddy Jimmy Payne and on the video, you can see them talking on the bottom of the pile. Good stuff. Tigers settled for another Ariri FG and it was 20-13, heading into the 4th quarter.
After trading punts, Clemson went on a 13-play drive. They converted a 4th and 1 situation, with a fake punt (quick snap to an up-back). That set up another big play. Tigers faced a 3rd and 7, at our 8 yard line. Gasque went to Tuttle on an out cut. It looked like a TD for a moment. Tuttle was open, but CB MIKE FISHER broke it up at the last second. Mike was a player that stepped up in the big moments of a game. This was another example of his playmaking ability. He was a guy you could count on rising to the occasion. Ariri kicked a chip shot FG, and it was 20-16.
We got it back with 6:43 remaining. Haffner got us a first down with a slot reverse to Amp. Herschel bounced an inside run outside for 11 yards and another first down. We ran some clock, but the drive stalled at the Clemson 45. Jim Broadway came in to punt. We were thinking Jim would back them up with a punt inside the twenty, but he fumbled a perfect snap and Clemson was back in business. Could this one slip away?
We could all hear the great Erk Russell screaming at the defense, “JUST ONE MORE TIME…ONE MORE TIME.” Of course, he was referring to stopping Clemson one more time to win the game. This became a battle cry.
On 2nd and 8, Clemson ran a wheel route out of a slot formation. The Tiger receiver Jerry Gaillard tripped over Woerner’s feet as the ball arrived and the official called interference. LOUSY CALL. They had it 1st and goal from our 10. Suddenly the game hung in the balance. Sanford Stadium went quiet, except for those Tiger fans who made the trip over.
On 2nd and goal, Gasque rolled left, under pressure from Robert Miles and threw it. The ball got batted up at the LOS AND SAFETY JEFF HIPP INTERCEPTED IT at the 1 yard line. JUST ONE MORE TIME, BABY!
Herschel busted one 20 yards to get us off the goal line and then I fell on it 3 times. We win, 20-16.
Our defense was the best in college football that season forcing turnovers. They forced 4 big ones that day. Our D-Line delivered a big performance. Jimmy Payne, Eddie Weaver and Joe Creamons combined for 33 tackles that day. They whipped Clemson’s O-Line. Nate Taylor forced 2 fumbles with big hits. Erk was proud of them and so were we.
We picked it up on offense in the 2nd half running the ball. Herschel finished with 23 carries for 121 yards. My contribution was scrambling around 11 times for a few 1st downs. Our passing game stunk; I was 2-7 for 31 yards. Lindsay never touched it. Clemson ran 90 plays to our 48. But most of their yards came between the 20’s.
But we won. And Scott Woerner was The Man!
After the postgame media session at the stadium, we took a bus back to our locker room at the Coliseum. As I dressed, I felt moved to speak with Coach Haffner about us throwing it just 7 times. I was embarrassed privately. This is not the conversation you want to have at halftime of a game. And it’s not one you want to have when others are around. So, I waited for him to emerge from the coach’s locker room. He looked surprised to see me standing there.
“Coach, I wanted to talk to you about the offense today,” I said.
“Yeah, what’s on your mind,” he responded.
“Coach, we only threw it 7 times and Lindsay never touched it once,” I said as nicely as I could.
There was a brief silence and then he got mad. Told me I was selfish and only concerned about myself. The team just won and I was worried about my stats. He put me in my place. But that just made me want to push it further.
“Coach, we’re going to have to throw it to beat the good teams, do you not have confidence in me throwing it? Is it me?”
He told me emphatically that it was about winning and that’s when the conversation ended. I thought about that conversation the rest of the day. It was difficult to really enjoy the win. I got the feeling that he really didn’t believe those things he told me. I believe he was as frustrated as I was, but couldn’t let his guard down. Not even for a moment. Coach Dooley was a run-first guy and that wasn’t going to change.
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