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Flashback 1985: The Catch

An article I dug up and saved.

"Clemson entered the 1985 season with high hopes, but the year ended up being a major rebuilding campaign that would fuel the 1986-1990 seasons. The Tigers had lost 3 games in a row to Georgia,Georgia Tech and Kentucky back in late September the Tigers had lost a heartbreaker in Chapel Hill the week before the Maryland game to slip to 5-4 on the year. After winning 37 games in the previous 4 seasons, the Tigers were stuck at mediocrity and the frustration was building.

Maryland, under head coach Bobby Ross, was in the midst of some of its most successful seasons. The 1985 Terrapin team would go on to finish 9-3 on the season and post a #18 national ranking. But on this day, the paths of these two programs were about to collide in an ugly affair for both sides.

The first hiccup to this game was the start time. CBS pushed this ACC match up back to 4:00 start time, which forced Clemson University to scramble around looking for more adequate lighting. While Clemson’s Death Valley had lighting suitable for night games, it was not enough for television. The late start time, this late in the football season, would mean most of the 2nd half would be played with the sun set. This did not make Danny Ford, or the Clemson faithful, happy. In this day and age a night game is accepted as common practice in Clemson, but in 1985 it was despised.

Up until late in the 4th quarter, the game was well played and exciting. Earlier in the 4th quarter, Bobby Ross had come onto the field to argue some questionable calls (presumably holding on Clemson) that the officials were not seeing. This got under Coach Ford’s skin, especially since he was at home and expected to be in control of everything…including the officials.

With the score knotted at 31 late in the 4th quarter, Clemson was flagged for a late hit that kept the Maryland drive alive. Furious with the call, Ford did just as Bobby Ross had done earlier in the game and walked onto Frank Howard Field to voice his displeasure with the call. To the dismay of millions of viewers watching nation wide, the head official had not turned off his microphone. What the 80,000 fans in Death Valley, along with the millions watching on television, got was an earful of classic Danny Ford. He verbally berated the official using plenty of words that would not be allowed on even some cable channels, much less a major network. When he was done, the nation was stunned and Clemson had an embarrassing situation on their hands. Little did anyone know at the time, but it was about to get worse.

After a Maryland field goal with less than 10 seconds basically sealed the win, the Terrapins lined up to kick off to the Tigers. The squib kick was eventually hauled in by the Tigers and run out of bounds on the Clemson side of the field directly in front of the student section. What started as a few pushes between the players turned into a near brawl as the Clemson bench converged on the scene. Maryland players ran across the field and also joined in the action, which took over 10 minutes to clear. And all of it was caught by television cameras (one perched on the sideline with a clear view to all the nasty action).

Clemson was obviously embarrassed considering the image problems of the NCAA probation earlier in the decade. The ACC, predictably, was also un-amused. In addition to several high level meetings, Coach Ford and Coach Ross were reprimanded by the league and forced to sit in the press box the following year in Baltimore.

It remains, to this day, one of the true black eyes on the Danny Ford on the field play by his teams. While many hail it as a man standing up for his team, that argument would have held up had the team not overreacted on the sideline. The frustration of losing the game coupled with the frustration of an average season had resulted in a moment most Clemson fans would like to forget"

I still think we got hosed.