The only other caning that even remotely rivals the one our Tigers administered last weekend in Miami came in 1856 when South Carolina Representative Preston Smith Brooks pummeled Massachusetts' Senator Charles Sumner with a gold-headed gutta-percha cane on the floor of the U.S. Senate chambers in Washington, D.C. And just as they did then, people across South Carolina are again shouting: "Hit ‘em again!"
This week the unfortunate victims of our Tigers' ferocity are Dave Doeren's unranked 5-2 (1-2 ACC) North Carolina State Wolfpack, who are anxious to make Carter Finley Stadium a house of horrors and put a scare into Dabo Swinney's third-ranked 7-0 (4-0 ACC) Tigers squad on All Hallows Eve.
The histories of both Clemson and NC State are significantly intertwined, both as academic institutions and athletic programs. As land-grant universities founded in the late 1880s (NC State-1887; Clemson-1889) with historic strengths in engineering, agriculture, and industrial education (especially textile manufacturing), both NC State and Clemson played pivotal roles in weaving the textile industry into the economic and social fabric of both North and South Carolina during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Clemson owns a commanding 54-28-1 all-time record over NC State on the gridiron in a series that dates to 1899. The Tigers' overall record includes a 19-16-0 advantage in Raleigh, 14-9-0 at Carter Finley Stadium. Beginning in 1971, Clemson and NC State have played annually, and since 1981, when the border "rivalry" garnered the "Textile Bowl" moniker, the Tigers hold a 24-10-0 record against the ‘Pack, which includes a 10-6-0 record on the road in the wolves' den. The only programs Clemson has compiled more football victories against all-time are South Carolina (66) and Wake Forest (62).
Will the ‘Pack trick the Tigers into a ghastly upset, or will the Tigers treat themselves to a thirty-sixth straight victory over an unranked opponent and set up a November to remember? Clemson's overall dominance against State, combined with the program's 13-7-0 all-time record on Halloween, suggests that this year's Tigers won't be haunted by what might have been when they look back upon this one years from now. But there are a few specters in the historical record to give even the most optimistic fan of the orange-and-white pause.
Clemson and NC State have only played on Halloween Day once in their history, but it was a ghoulish game for the Tigers, who lost 46-39 to Mike O'Cain's Wolfpack. Running with the ‘Pack that day in 1998 were QB Jamie Barnette, WR Torry Holt, and RB Ray Robinson, all of whom are still running wild in the worst nightmares of each and every member of that 3-8 Tigers squad, Tommy West's last as the Clemson head coach. But Clemson and State have frequently squared off on Halloween weekend (on the Saturday just before Halloween proper), twelve times in all (1903; 1906; 1973; 1975; 1978; 1979; 1980; 1984; 1985; 1986; 1991; 2004). In those twelve meetings the Tigers have compiled a 7-4-1 overall record, 4-2 at home, 2-2 in Raleigh, and 1-0-1 in neutral-site games played in Columbia, SC. As we approach this All Saints' Day, let us invoke the memory and seek the favor of Tigers past to intercede on behalf of Tigers present, that we may all enjoy a more victorious future:
In 1903 Clemson head coach John Heisman took his final Tiger team down to Columbia to take on the NC State Wolfpack and emerged victorious after a 24-0 romp. Heisman rode that momentum into the postgame festivities, which included his nuptials to the former Evelyn Barksdale, an actress in a summer stock company he'd met while pursuing his own amateur thespian interests. It's alleged that Evelyn coveted the brighter lights of Atlanta over the lonesome fields of Clemson and pressured Heisman to accept a lucrative offer from Georgia Tech to assume control of the Yellow Jackets football team after the 1903 season. Heisman would compile a 102-29-7 record in sixteen seasons as the Jackets' head man from 1904-1919, when he divorced Evelyn and, in order to avoid a public scandal, agreed to resign and remove to Pennsylvania when she decided to remain in Atlanta. The 1903 Tigers would finish as co-champions of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SIAA) with a 4-1-1 (4-0-1 SIAA) record.
In 1978 Charley Pell's final Clemson squad came into the Textile Bowl at 5-1 and #20 in the nation to take on Bo Rein's 5-1 but unranked NC State Wolfpack in Raleigh. Led by QB Steve Fuller, RB Lester Brown, and WRs Jerry Butler and Dwight Clark on offense, along with LBs Bubba Brown and Randy Scott on defense, the Tigers completed a 33-10 massacre of the ‘Pack. Clemson would finish the 11-1 (6-0 ACC) ACC championship season off in style by beating Woody Hayes's last Ohio State Buckeye team 17-15 in Jacksonville, FL at the Gator Bowl to end up at #6 in the final polls. NC State would complete a 9-3 season by beating Pittsburgh in the Tangerine Bowl to finish fifteenth in the nation.
In 1984 Danny Ford's sixth Tiger team ventured up to Raleigh to do battle against Tom Reed's penultimate Wolfpack squad and nearly gave up the ghost in a 35-34 Halloween thriller, still the highest scoring one-point game in Clemson football history. The Tigers entered the near-death match unranked at 4-2, while State also came in unranked at 3-4. Led on offense by QB Mike Eppley, RBs Stacy Driver and Kenny Flowers, and WR Terrance Roulhac, and on defense by the Perry Brothers, William "The Refrigerator" and Michael Dean at DT, LB Henry Walls, Bandit End Terrance Mack, and DB Reggie Pleasant, the Tigers found a way to prevail in a frighteningly close contest. Clemson would finish the season unranked at just 7-5 (5-2 ACC) and home for the holidays for one of only four times in Danny Ford's eleven year stint at the Tigers' helm. NC State would limp to a second consecutive 3-8 finish to end the year unranked, a feat they would repeat yet again the following year to bury Tom Reed's brief career as the head man in Raleigh and usher in the Dick Sheridan era in 1986.
By any historical measure the 2015 Tigers should run over, around, and away from the ‘Pack and with this game to reach 8-0. And with Dabo Swinney preaching his #windshieldmentality, his Tigers will move on to an epic showdown with the Felony State University Criminoles "never looking back."