As we navigate this crazy COVID-19 experience which has thrust us into the Dark Territory much earlier than expected and indefinitely, I thought I’d revisit a few historically good individual performances from Clemson players of the past. I’d love to hear your memories of that same game if you were there or watched it happen on TV in the comments. These are all based on my direct experience either being there or watching it on live broadcast. Some of these performances came in losses, unfortunately, but were noteworthy nonetheless.
For my first entry, I’m going to choose the game Tony Horne had against Florida State in 1997. This, of course, was during the troubled 1990s when Florida State ruled the ACC the way Clemson rules it today. The Seminoles had some of the best defenses in college football during their heyday, and they usually made a living stuffing anyone who didn’t have dynamic playmakers on the outside to hurt their primarily man-free defensive approach. The Tommy West era wasn’t known for much positive, and his offenses usually lagged way behind his defenses. West’s teams generally could beat the middle to bottom of the league, but he was never able to topple Florida State or other higher level teams that he faced.
The 1997 game was largely remembered for what Peter Warrick did to the Tigers. Warrick made the Clemson defense look silly all day long to the tune of 8 catches for 249 yards and a long punt return touchdown. Tony Horne’s day was overshadowed, but the undersized wide receiver out of Richmond County High School in North Carolina did his best to match what Warrick was doing on the other side. Horne’s 10 catches on the day was the most by a Tiger since Perry Tuttle in 1981. Horne made tough plays all day, including this catch over the middle while taking a huge hit from the FSU safety. Current passing game coordinator Brandon Streeter started that game before being injured and relieved by normal starter Nealon Greene.
Horne was also Clemson’s primary punt returner and kick returner and was trying to make something out of nothing a lot of the time against FSU.
The Noles would hang on to beat Clemson 35-28 on the back of Warrick’s huge day, but Horne’s 10 catches for 131 yards was one of the best games Clemson fans had seen out of a wideout ever before the days of #WRU arrived. Perhaps his top play in the game was this TD catch on a short hitch from Nealon Greene that showed off Horne’s open field ability and relentless effort.
These days, huge games by great wide receivers at Clemson are pretty routine. In 1997, however, they certainly were not. Horne was the typical guy punching above his weight that Clemson had to rely upon back when recruiting 4 and 5 star talent wasn’t happening very often, and rarely if ever on the offensive side of the ball.