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Historical Eye of the Tiger: Clemson @ Louisville

The Tigers Jockey for ACC and Atlantic Division Position in the Land of Thoroughbreds, Bluegrass, and Bourbon

Just too good not to repost
Just too good not to repost

Very little connects Louisville, KY and Clemson, SC in the historical record. Clemson's own John C. Calhoun (of Fort Hill Plantation) once tried to remedy that fact, quite literally, when in 1836 he proposed the construction of a rail line to connect Charleston's port to emerging trans-Appalachian settlements in the Ohio River Valley.

Fort Hill

Photo from The Digital History Project,

Fort Hill Today

The idea remained just that for the better part of two decades until 1852 when a group of investors initially culled together by Calhoun (who died in 1850) chartered the "Blue Ridge Railroad." Construction didn't actually begin until 1854, however, by which time the vast majority of the connecting lines, down from Cincinnati, OH (south through Louisville, KY) to the western foot of the Appalachian Mountains at Knoxville, TN, and up from Charleston to Anderson, SC, had already been completed. All that remained was the 195-mile stretch connecting Anderson to Knoxville. But by 1859 only the section between Anderson and Walhalla, SC had been completed, and the outbreak of secession (December 20, 1860) and the Civil War (1861-1865) derailed the project.

Blue Ridge Railroad

Blue Ridge Railroad Map from LOC,

Brief attempts to resuscitate the project in 1869 were abandoned due to lack of funding. The line would never be completed, and though other lines in other places would eventually bring the Ohio River Valley and the Deep South into more direct connection, the most lasting legacy of the aborted Blue Ridge Railroad came out of the Stumphouse Mountain Tunnel, from whence the initial batch of the now-famous Clemson Blue Cheese emerged in 1941.

Stumphouse Mountain Tunnel

Photo from

Clemson Blue Cheese

Clemson Blue Cheese

Having failed to establish a tangible connection between Louisville and Upstate SC in the historical record, we'll have to settle for a spiritual one. In the very same year that the Blue Ridge Railroad project was abandoned amidst increasing sectional hostilities and impending civil war, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary was founded in Greenville, SC on the campus of Furman University. But the ensuing battles between blue and gray made a casualty of the Seminary almost as soon as it was founded, and it closed its doors until 1877, when it was relocated to...Louisville, KY. It is ironic, perhaps, that the oldest of the six seminaries affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), historically renowned for its denunciation of dancing, drinking, and gambling as especially sinful pastimes, should find its permanent home in a state with dubious (in some quarters) Southern credentials that is renowned for three things above all else: bluegrass music, bourbon whiskey, and thoroughbred horse racing. While moving from the heart of the Bible Belt to its vice-ridden margins may seem suspect for the Southern Baptist Seminary, it does help to explain why Louisville's Prodigal Son (Bobby Petrino) returned to itinerate among the Cardinal faithful.

As the Historical Eye of the Tiger chronicled before last season's first ever gridiron grudge match, Clemson and Louisville have an even more paltry athletic connection than they do a historical one. But the Tigers have had considerable success against songbirds, perching birds, and birds of prey. And we all know how often we deplume our fowl-weather foes to the southeast.

Last year's victory over the Louisville Cardinals only heightened our Tigers' prowess for devouring feathered foes, but not without considerable heartburn in digesting the win. It took a rare punt-return touchdown from Adam Humphries and a defensive touchdown by Tavaris Barnes (on a fumble caused by Garry Peters) to overcome the loss of Deshuan Watson in the first quarter and pluck a victorious feather for our collective cap.

2014 Clemson vs. Louisville Highlights

Barring another injury to Deshaun Watson, the 2015 offense should prove more than capable of sustaining drives and lighting up the scoreboard against a Louisville defense that has struggled to replace departed NFL-caliber talent en route to an 0-2 start. But the Tiger defense must replace even more NFLers, and though the early returns against weaker competition are promising, it stands to regress at least slightly from its number one overall finish a year ago. So will another defensive slugfest ensue, with special teams and defensive scores separating the winners from the losers? Or will DW4 take offensive revenge for last year's near-stalemate, while Shaq Lawson, Mack Alexander, and Jayron Kearse prove the mantra "We Too Deep" and pitch a near-shutout of their own?

The short history between these two programs says that Clemson stands better poised to win again in either a defensive struggle or an offensive shootout. Too many weapons on offense and too much freakishly athletic talent on defense says the Tigers survive an early haymaker from Muhamad Ali the Cardinals and their bourbon-soaked crowd to serve up a scrumptious soufflé of bourbon-glazed victory. The Tigers emerge the toast of the town, dance the night away to an old-time fiddle beneath a blue Kentucky moon, and ride their victorious steed all the way back to the Dark Corner with the national spotlight glaring in their eyes as they peer ahead to what they hope is Notre Dame's unlucky return to Death Valley two weeks hence.