Like Cain and Able, David and Goliath, Penn and Teller, etc., you usually cannot talk about one without talking about the other. Since we suffered through the memory of the 2004 loss at Duke, it must be followed by discussing the incredible win at Miami in 2004. This one holds a special place in the memories of many Tiger fans, mostly because the vast majority of us felt we had about a 10% shot at winning the game going into it. If you were around to witness it either live or on TV, you can attest to the unbridled joy that erupted at the end of this game akin to the 2001 GT matchup we featured in volume 2. It was a magical night which featured a rare tombstone moment (especially in those days), and the STS time machine takes you there...
The Tigers' 2004 season was about as crazy as season as you could imagine. 2003 was a tough act to follow considering Clemson had been demolished by UGA at home and was blown out by half time at Wake Forest but also blew out GT in Atlanta, FSU in the Valley, the coots in Columbia, and UT in the Peach Bowl. Not to be outdone, the 04 team absolutely imploded against GT in the Valley, then got smoked three straight weeks on the road before managing to win 4 in a row. That fourth win was the Miami game, which was promptly followed by the incredible Duke loss. The Tigers then smashed the chickens in the brawl game which led to having no bowl appearance. The Bowden teams rarely had the decency to be all good or all bad, instead opting to duplicate a roller coaster experience fit for Carowinds or Cedar Point. As stated earlier, a lot of Tiger fans including this one cringed in preparation for the Miami game. The other road trips that year had been really bad losses and there was no reason to think this would be any different.
I was in Myrtle Beach that fateful Saturday night due to my wife wanting to hang out with an old work buddy from Georgia who was in town. I agreed to this under the stipulation that I had to be in front of a TV somewhere to watch the game. I figured things would go sour and I could just drown my sorrows at Broadway. We were at one of the restaurant/bars when the game got started. I figured it would be a slow burn kind of night, so I started with a cold beer. Pregame gave us the usual fanfare mostly associated with Miami's dominant home record over the last 20 years. Miami had been upset the week before by UNC and was "mad" and "ready to take it out" on our Tigers. Guys like Devin Hester, Frank Gore, and Antrell Rolle were shown getting ready and I got even more of a sinking feeling. That didn't get better early as Miami easily moved the ball down the field and scored when Frank Gore went untouched for a 23 yard touchdown run. It was too easy. Meanwhile, the Tiger offense was struggling to deal with Miami's defense as it had FSU's and UVA's earlier in the season. Clemson's defense managed to hold up enough to force a field goal to make it 10-0, but there was little evidence to suggest things were going to get better. I finished a few beers as Jad Dean knocked in a long field goal to make it 10-3. However, the glimmer of hope that we might claw back into the game was all but extinguished when Gore busted through for another TD run at the end of the second quarter. 17-3 Miami, time to change the venue and wonder how bad the final was going to look.
Next stop was the Fat Tuesdays at Broadway. I didn't care and figured switching to those frozen drinks might get me to forgetsville faster. I went straight for the 190 Octane as made obligatory glances up at the TV as the third quarter got going. The Tiger defense all of a sudden began to stuff Miami's run game. Quarterback Brock Berlin (who was an all world 5 star recruit when he came to Miami) began to struggle himself once his safety blanket run game was taken away. Eric Coleman was playing like a man possessed on the DL and Leroy Hill was being his usual force from his linebacker position. Tye Hill and Justin Miller got more and more physical with the Miami wideouts. On the other side, good ole Reggie Merriweather decided he was going to just truck anything in his path and require two or three Canes to bring him down on every run. Once the run game got untracked, Charlie Whitehurst was able to make some plays with our top WR on the 04 squad, speedster Airese Currie. Currie beat man coverage down the sideline for a big play and I started thinking we might make a game of it yet. Sure enough, Reggie burst through the line, ran through two Hurricanes, and sprinted for a 27 yard TD. I allowed myself to cheer and to drink even more 190 Octane. You could feel the momentum shifting even from watching it on TV (no doubt enhanced by the alcohol). Again and again the Tiger defense stuffed Miami and forced punts and Clemson was putting together decent drives behind Merriweather and some good work from Whitehurst. However, Jad Dean kept missing field goals and the Tigers were coming up empty in the mid third quarter into the fourth. I couldn't tell you what drink I was on at this stage, but I certainly was cursing the thought of another game thrown away by poor special teams.
The Tiger defense was undeterred and kept getting the ball back for the offense. The Tigers again drove into Miami territory, this time inside the 10. The drive stalled with 2 yards to go and out trot Dean and the field goal team once again. My only thought was, "at least it is a short kick, maybe he can make this one," but I wasn't feeling confident to say the least. In classic Bowden fashion, the Tigers unleashed one of the coolest fake field goals ever. Cole Chason caught the snap and blindly flipped the ball behind his head to Dean who was able to get to the edge. Miami added insult to injury by getting a late hit penalty, setting up the Tigers on the one yard line first and goal. Reggie pounded the ball in and the game was knotted at 17. At this point, I boldly declared if Clemson wins the game we're doing shots!
By this time we had gone from Fat Tuesdays to the 80's bar Revolutions (side note, I love 80s music). At this point, the perfect storm of Clemson football, 80s music, and copious amounts of alcohol was forming. The O.T. played out like the second half with Reggie Merriweather bulldozing Miami defenders and putting the Tigers up for the first time all night 24-17. Now it was up to the defense to get one more stop and send Tiger Nation into an absolute frenzy. The defense stiffened as Miami got to the 5 and forced a fourth down. Berlin tried to go after Tye Hill, who was in tight coverage on Lance Leggett, and the ball bounced away. After searching for flags and seeing none, the full on celebration began. I had my Tiger rag with me and widely ran around the club waving it like a crazy person. I promptly ordered shots for I can't remember how many folks and we downed them enthusiastically. I allegedly ran out and led a cadence count cheer from atop one of the Sphinx outside the Hard Rock Cafe. That Saturday was epic! Sunday...not so much. In the end, I would rank that win in the top 6 or 7 in my lifetime. Who knows where it would be had the team not screwed up in Durham the next week, but I digress...
You can find this game in its entirety here.