One topic that comes up among my Clemson friends from time to time is the work of the ACC officials. It doesn't take long before the term "Cherry Bomb" comes up and we rehash some of the most egregious calls we've seen in our lifetimes as Tiger fans. I figure this is some good Dark Territory fodder as fall camp gets close. This is a top 10 list of mine, though I will admit it was hard to rank. I welcome any addition or re-rank comments from the masses.
10. 2003 offense pass interference against Kevin Youngblood at Maryland
This game features a call higher on the list, but this one was pretty effing bad. Clemson appeared to have put itself an extra point away from tying the game at 14 when Charlie Whitehurst hit Youngblood for a big TD. The refs decided to call offensive pass interference on Youngblood, who was ten yards wide open when the ball got to him. Replay showed the Maryland corner trying to jam Youngblood and getting tangled up when he tried to turn and run with him. The ball didn't even appear to have been thrown yet, and, if anything, the contact was incidental and involved both players. The Twerp corner even tried to grab Youngblood as he fell, and Kevin used his arm to get free of this. Horrible call.
9. 1998 pass interference call against Antwan Edwards at UVA
Now, 1998 was a total disaster, and be thankful if you were too young to have suffered through the last of the Tommy West era. That team was just terrible on offense, and the defense was just adequate (and not nearly good enough to hold up for four quarters). After getting totally destroyed by VT at home, Clemson had to face a ranked UVA team in Charlottesville. The Tigers played a lot better, especially on defense, than the week before and was in position to pull the upset after Brandon Streeter found Brian Wofford for a big TD late. UVA was in desperation mode when it tried a pass on top Clemson corner Antwan Edwards (future 1st round pick). Edwards arrived as the ball did and broke up the play, seemingly sealing the victory for Clemson, but the yellow hanky flew, and UVA was gifted a first down. They would go on to beat the Tigers on a field goal with less than 40 seconds to go. Every replay of that PI call showed it was bang bang, and if Edwards got there early, it was by less than a millisecond. No way that flag should have been thrown.
8. 2001 spot in the third quarter against USuC
2001 was a disappointing year save the two game stretch against GT and NCST when Woody Dantzler put on a ridiculous display of offense. Meanwhile, the coots were in the midst of the best season of the Louser Holtz era. Think about the insufferable coot fans right now, and you understand how they were acting in 2001. We had to go play them in the cockroach, but Tommy Bowden had found a way to win this game each of his first two seasons, and the Tigers were on a 4 game win streak in the series going into this one. Clemson came out firing early and had a chance to have a good lead at the half if not for two really bad interceptions that stopped what looked to be sure-fire scoring drives. The third quarter was the pivotal one in this game because the coots were able to eat up nearly the entire quarter on one scoring drive. That would not have been possible had it not been for one of the worst spots I've ever witnessed. The struggling 2001 defense managed to stuff a run a good yard and a half short early in the drive, but the refs inexplicably moved the ball up nearly 2 yards on the spot. This was before you could challenge this type of play, luckily for the coots. The Clemson sideline was livid, but to no avail.
7. 2003 non-call for illegal touching at Maryland
The Twerps were in the midst of their best three year stretch of football since the early 80s from 2001-2003. Clemson was the underdog in this matchup but had played tough and were in position to take a big road win. Then one of the most ridiculous non calls (or misinterpretation of the rules) in the history of sports occurred. Up by just a TD in the second half, the Twerps hit on a long pass from Scott McBrien to Derrick Fenner. Fenner was facing Tye Hill in press coverage on the play, and Hill bumped Fenner out of bounds early in the route. The rule states the player must make an attempt to get back on the field as soon as possible when knocked out by the opponent to avoid the illegal touching call. Fenner ran at least 7 yards out of bounds before coming back on to make the grab over Hill and take it for the touchdown. Tommy Bowden would later quip that Fenner "got a drink" on the sideline to point out how long he was off the field of play.
6. 2003 non-call for pass interference against UGA at home
The '03 UGA team was very good and certainly better than the Tigers, especially in August of that year. However, that doesn't mean a hose job from the refs in that game can't make this list. The Tigers had hung around in the game largely due to Leroy Hill playing like a man possessed on defense. UGA burned Justin Miller on the first drive, but the Tigers were just down 13-0 when they finally got deep in UGA territory and threatened to make it a one score game. The Bowden-era was full of trick plays and one got pulled out in the red zone when Duane Coleman took a handoff and prepared to throw the ball back to Whitehurst. Georgia defensive end Robert Geathers was fooled and desperately tried to get back to Whitehurst and tackled him before the ball got there. It was blatant pass interference, but for some unknown reason the flag was never thrown. Perhaps that SEC crew was confused by the trick play and forgot the rules.
5. 2008 phantom hold call on Thomas Austin vs. GT at home
I call this one "phantom hold 1" because the same crap happened the very next year in Atlanta (note #4 on the list). In the very first game of the Dabo Swinney era, the Tigers had played a valiant game despite the turmoil leading up to the game. GT had gotten the lead on a TD pass late, but the Tigers were on the path for the comeback win when Cullen Harper hit Jacoby Ford for a big gain deep into GT territory. Alas, the yellow hanky sat on the turf way behind the play when the refs decided that Thomas Austin had held a GT player a good 8-10 yards away from the play. Replays showed Austin had fallen and the GT player fell down trying to get over him. It wasn't a hold, and even if it HAD been, it had no impact on the play at all because Harper had rolled away from the pocket. That player had no shot at getting there even if he had made no contact with Austin.
4. 2009 phantom hold call on Thomas Austin at GT
I'm pretty sure the only holding calls against Austin in his career at Clemson were the two phantom hose jobs in '08 and '09. In almost a replay from the year before, Clemson's attempt to drive for a winning touchdown late was derailed by an inexplicable holding call. The old saying is that holding could be called on every play, and that could be true if you count hands inside the pads, but the refs allow for that in close contact. Usually refs will look to determine if the blocker gained a clear advantage from holding before throwing the flag. Kyle Parker had hit Jacoby Ford on a big play deep into GT territory (sound familiar?) when the play was brought back for a hold on Austin. Again, the replay showed minimal contact that could be construed as holding and it certainly didn't impact the play. Horrific call that likely cost us the win in Atlanta.
3. 2006 interception overturn by replay at Boston College
The worst of the worst hose jobs are the one's that have a direct impact on the outcome. Look no further than the double O.T. loss at Boston College in 2006 for exhibit A. The game never should have gotten to O.T. because Michael Hamlin won a jump ball situation and intercepted a pass on B.C.'s game tying drive. The call on the field was interception, which meant that it required indisputable video evidence to overturn the play. Every replay shown featured Hamlin and the B.C. wideout getting the ball together in the air but Hamlin having clear possession when the players hit the turf. Hamlin even broke his arm on this play and would miss the next few weeks, but still held on to the ball. Somehow the replay official found evidence that the B.C. WR made the catch even though he never had the ball for more than half a second (and that was with Hamlin also having his hands on the ball) and didn't have it when they landed. A Tomahawk missile should have been fired into the replay booth after that atrocity.
2. The top 2 come from the same game, the infamous 1985 Maryland game. Most Clemson fans agree that the worst hose jobs ever came in this matchup to decide the ACC championship in Death Valley. Clemson ended up losing this game 34-31, but it took two of the most egregious officiating mistakes ever to make that happen. The first was a pivotal play when the refs decided to not watch the play clock and allow Maryland to run a play well after the 25 seconds had expired. This was only the warmup for the piece de resistance...
1. Ferrel Edmunds "catch" for the win for Maryland in 1985
There is no way this should have ever stood, but it did and set off a huge blowup from Coach Danny Ford and a brawl at the end of the game. Maryland fired a pass to Edmunds in the endzone, but he never had clear possession and tried to play it off by celebrating as if he meant to drop the ball. In the replay era (2006 BC not included), there is no way this play would have held up. You can check out the play here:
and from the STS archives, Danny Ford's reaction here: