This week Dabo Swinney captains our undefeated Clemson Tigers into the eye of the storm with a road date against Al Golden's 4-2 Miami Hurricanes. The Tigers have traditionally weathered the storm better in Miami than they have at home, compiling a 3-3 record all-time in South Florida but losing both matchups in Death Valley (36-30 in triple overtime in 2005; 30-21 on homecoming weekend in 2010). Clemson's overall record against Miami stands at 3-6 (the Tigers lost 4-0 in the 1952 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville).
Clemson's South Beach success began in January 1951 with their first-ever Orange Bowl appearance, when "The Legend" Frank Howard brought his "Country Gentlemen" down to Florida to take on Andy Gustafson's Hurricanes. The 1950 season was a near-perfect one for Howard's gridiron Tigers at 9-0-1 (3-0-1 SoCon), and they entered the bowl matchup with the #15 Hurricanes ranked tenth in the nation. Led by Clemson legends Fred Cone (31), Ray Mathews (70), Jackie Calvert (21), and Billy Hair (77), the Tigers jumped out to a 7-0 lead after a 76-yard first quarter touchdown drive, and took that lead into the halftime break having limited the Hurricane offense to just one first down.
The Tigers extended their lead to 13-0 with the opening drive of the second half, culminating in a 21-yard touchdown pass from Billy Hair to Glenn Smith. But Miami owned the remainder of the quarter, scoring two touchdowns, the first on a 45-yard run by Frank Smith, the second on a 79-yard pass following an interception. With just six minutes to go in the game, the ‘Canes' Harry Mallios took a punt 79 yards for what appeared to be the game-clinching score, but penalties took the play back and put Miami in a hole deep in the shadow of their own goal. Hurricane running back Frank Smith was tackled for a safety by Clemson's Sterling Smith to secure the most unlikely of Tiger victories 15-14.
Frank Howard would later quip that the 1950 team produced "several millionaires" but "Fred Cone wutn't one of ‘em." And Howard would later reference the '51 Orange Bowl win as the time when his Tigers "embarrassed" Miami's Hurricane's on a last-second safety.
It would be fifty-three years before Clemson would again taste victory against Miami in the Sunshine State. In addition to the Gator Bowl loss in 1952, Howard's Tigers also lost road bouts with the Hurricanes in 1953 (39-7) and 1956 (21-0). Tommy Bowden's 2004 Tigers finally broke the losing streak to the ‘Canes, prevailing 24-17 in overtime on the strength of running back Reggie Merriweather's 114 rushing yards and three touchdowns, 258 yards passing from quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, and 128 yards receiving by wideout Airese Currie.
The Tigers would finish what was a disappointing season at 6-5 (4-4 ACC) and unranked. In a poignant moment for the entire season and symbolic of much of Bowden's tenure, the 2004 Tigers followed up this momentous road victory over the eleventh-ranked ‘Canes by dropping a road contest with hapless Duke the following week (Duke finished the season 2-9, 1-7 in the ACC). Larry Coker's Hurricanes finished 9-3 (5-3 ACC) and eleventh in the country after a Peach Bowl victory over the Florida Gators.
Dabo Swinney's 2009 Tigers squad accounted for the third and final road victory over the Miami Hurricanes in a thrilling 40-37 overtime triumph. The Tigers entered the game against the eleventh-ranked 5-1 ‘Canes unranked at 3-3. Led by running back CJ Spiller's then-school-record 310 all-purpose yards (81 rushing, 104 receiving with one touchdown, 125 yards and a touchdown on three kickoff returns), quarterback Kyle Parker's 326 yards and three touchdowns passing, and wideout Jacoby Ford's game-winning touchdown reception in overtime, the Tigers would ride the momentum of this victory to a six-game winning streak, claiming the ACC Atlantic Division and playing in the program's first ACC Championship game. Despite CJ Spiller's heroic effort in the title game, the Jackets would steal the conference title (later forfeited). Clemson would finish the year ranked 24th at 9-4 after a 21-13 Music City Bowl victory over Kentucky, while Miami would also finish 9-4 and ranked 19th in the final polls.
Having already claimed victory over Notre Dame in what Coach Swinney continues to dub a "hurricane," and followed it up with another win over the Yellow Jackets in a monsoon, this year's Tigers are salty veterans of rain-soaked gridiron matches. With Captain Swinney at the helm, he and his crew are well positioned to secure another victory in front of dozens of the Hurricanes' fair-weather fans.