Topic: On This Date: 1977 Clemson- 7 (17)Georgia- 6
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On This Date: 1977 Clemson- 7 (17)Georgia- 6

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Posted: Sep 17, 2020, 8:47 AM

Athens, GA

by Al Adams

Is it possible for one game to change a football program? Could a regular-season game have that much impact? If one game can change a program’s direction, the 1977 Georgia game in Athens did just that for the Clemson Tigers. Consider the following:

-Clemson came into the game with a new head coach (Charley Pell).
-The Tigers had not won a game in Athens since 1914. The Tigers were coming off consecutive seasons of 2-9 in 1975 and a 3-6-2 record in 1976.
-Clemson had a strong nucleus of returning players. Today, they are recognized as some of the most decorated in Tiger history. We know them now as Fuller, Butler, Bostic (Joe and Jeff), Stuckey, Brown (Lester and Bubba), Kenney, and Scott. However, on that rainy September day “between the hedges,” they were young players wondering if they could win, never mind play professionally.
-The season opener was a 21-14 loss at home to Maryland. It seemed that the losing of the past years was continuing.
-Clemson had not been to a bowl game since 1959, and we all wondered if that was a realistic goal entering the game in Athens.
-Georgia was the defending SEC Champions.
With this list of facts, few who gathered in Athens that day or listened in to Jim Phillips or Larry Munson on the radio figured things would change. They thought the Bulldogs would roll over Clemson again, as they have so many times before.

This was the setting when Clemson and Georgia played on September 17, 1977. The facts of the rainy afternoon were pretty simple. It was a day for the defenses on both sides, as the wet ball hampered the offenses as well.

Clemson’s quarterback, Steve Fuller, had a tough first half, completing just one of six passes. Bulldog signal caller Jeff Pyburn did not fare much better, as Clemson intercepted two of his first-half passes. Clemson’s only score came in the third quarter. A Fuller to Jerry Butler hookup put the ball at the Bulldog 23. Two plays later and facing a third-and-10, Fuller hit Dwight Clark for a 17-yard gain to the six. Lester Brown punched the ball in from three yards out and the Tigers led 7-0.

After Georgia missed a 29-yard field goal during the fourth quarter, the Tigers took the ball on a six-minute drive and seemed to be on the verge of running out the clock. However, a Fuller fumble of a wet ball gave the Bulldogs new life with just 29 seconds on the clock and on their own 42-yard-line.

True to the form of this great rivalry, the Bulldogs mustered up one last charge. Pyburn passed behind the line of scrimmage to tight end Ulysses Norris, who then heaved a 51-yard pass to Jesse Murray to the Clemson seven-yard-line. Two plays later, the Bulldogs scored when Pyburn hit Norris in the back of the Clemson endzone to make the score 7-6. With just six seconds left to play, the Bulldogs lined up for a two-point conversion to go for the win. Georgia was penalized five yards on the conversion attempt for being offsides. Despite the extra five yards, Georgia still decided to again try for two points, but the pass fell incomplete in the Tiger endzone.

Clemson had held on for a 7-6 win over the #17 Bulldogs.

Following the effort, Vince Dooley, who was going for the 100th career win, congratulated the Tigers. “Clemson deserved to win. They were well-coached, well-prepared, and they came to play.”

In the other dressing room, there was bedlam. The Tigers had come away with a win they needed in the worst kind of way. This was the confidence boost they needed. A loss to the Bulldogs would have left Clemson at 0-2 and really questioning themselves. The trip back to Tigertown would have been a lot more than the 80 miles showed. However, following the 7-6 win and the victory cigars that Coach Pell made part of each victorious dressing room that year, the Tigers knew they had arrived.

From Coach Pell’s perspective, his first coaching win looked pretty good. “I’ve been in football a pretty good while,” he said. “But I’ve never been around a group of men that worked harder and paid more for the price to get what they’ve got today.”

One of the leaders was junior linebacker Randy Scott. Scott was named ACC Defensive Player-of-the-Week for his efforts that afternoon. Scott was credited with 14 tackles, an interception. and a forced fumble. Being a native of Waycross, GA made the win against Georgia even more special for Scott.

“That game gave us the realization that we belonged,” said Scott recently. “Georgia was the defending SEC Champions and had a great team. We knew we could play after beating them in Athens. The year before, they had beaten us 41-0 with Ray Goff as the quarterback. They had really beaten us like a drum. The win in Athens gave us the confidence to become a good team.”

Scott, who now makes his home in Gainesville, FL and was selected as Florida’s Teacher-of-the-Year last year, also said the Georgia game was a crucial one. “We should have won the Maryland game. After that game, we felt like we might be heading for another losing season.”

Scott was also quick to give credit to his head coach with pulling out a real motivational tool prior to the Georgia game. “Coach Pell brought in a guy who had been badly injured in Vietnam and had him speak to us in the lockerroom prior to that game. He really got the team pumped up.”

The speaker was one of the Marine’s most decorated veterans, Clebe McClary.

Scott also brought to light one of those moments that is funny now but was not funny then. “When Georgia was going for the two-point conversion to win the game, we only had 10 men on the field. I was the captain and I was yelling trying to get a timeout, but the play went on. Steve Gibbs, one of our ends, dropped back on their tight end and broke up the play. It was a great play by him.”

From that win over the Bulldogs, Clemson went on to post an 8-3-1 record and earned a trip to the Gator Bowl. The following year, the Tigers were 11-1, won the ACC Championship, and defeated Ohio State in the Gator Bowl. From the success of 1977 and 1978 came recruits like Perry Tuttle, Homer Jordan, Jeff Davis, and William Perry. That group brought Clemson its national championship in 1981 and a rebirth of Tiger football.

One of the best descriptions of the reaction to the Clemson win over the Bulldogs came from noted Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer Lewis Grizzard. He wrote about Pell’s reaction to the win.

“He sat on the floor and cried. He is 36-years-old, but he sat on the floor and cried. He didn’t sob. He cried like a man cries when he sits back down in the pew after giving his only daughter in marriage.”

Could there be a better description of the emotion surrounding the Tigers win? Would it be a stretch to say this was one of the most important wins in Clemson football history? I think one could make the case.

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Re: Family

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Posted: Sep 17, 2020, 9:12 AM

I can remember this like is was yesterday, sitting in a dove field with my dad. I was just a kid. He had a radio sitting on a stump beside our stools. I remember my dad being so excited when they won, i didn't really understand why he was so excited. I just wanted him to shoot some more doves so i can run out and retrieve them. He always said he didn't need a bird dog, cause he had me to do the retrieving.
I am sure so many of you share those same types of memories where Clemson football and times with family have combined to just be special memories in your life. Football and Family Matters.


very cool memory! I look forward to Sept Dove and Football

Posted: Sep 17, 2020, 9:18 AM

seasons more than Christmas almost

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Re: On This Date: 1977 Clemson- 7 (17)Georgia- 6

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Posted: Sep 17, 2020, 9:12 AM

Took a bus from Lamar's that morning. Charted bus left from Greenville, so Lamar got a school bus and he drove us to Greenville. It was stocked with beverages. We used rainwater rolling off the umbrellas as mixer at the game. Good times.


Re: On This Date: 1977 Clemson- 7 (17)Georgia- 6

Posted: Sep 17, 2020, 9:22 AM

If I remember correctly, Coach Pell stopped the team buses on the way back to Clemson after the game an bought the players cigars for the victory.


Yes, that first sentence says it all... if you were at CU at that

emoji_events [5]
Posted: Sep 17, 2020, 10:31 AM

time, or a fan... that game absolutely was THE Turning Point For Clemson Football. I know it's impossible for younger folks to understand now, but Clemson Football back then was a big fat nothingburger. Two pieces of stale bread, no meat, no condiments, nothing. Oh, we heard about some "glory years" back in the 40s or 50s or whatever. But that was a lifetime ago in 1977. We sucked. Plain and simple - we sucked, and we'd sucked for a long time. My first home game as a freshman in 1975, we lost to freakin Tulane. Rolled by Bama 56-0 the next game. Blah blah blah.

Seriously, Clemson football was pretty much an afterthought my first 2 years. 2-9, 3-6-2. We were horrible. You went to the home games just to get plastered and raise he11 in the student section with your buddies. There was no indication that 1977 was going to be any better. And this was my very first "away game"... I only went because I had a cousin at Georgia. I drove over by myself, got lost in the traffic, had no idea where to park, got in the stadium late, and we didn't meet up like we were supposed to.

But holy crap... we were actually in the game! It was competitive! I remember the people around me shared their liquor with me. And I stepped away a couple times to have a toke or two. I was unprepared for the rain and soaked to the gills, but didn't care. Man, it was surreal... we were actually beating Georgia late in the 4th quarter! But when they scored with just a few seconds left, you just knew we were going to lose. When that 2 point conversion failed, it was unbelievable. Did that really just happen? Did we just beat Georgia between the hedges??

I don't know how I found my car and made it back home. It's all a blur. But I remember the atmosphere when I got back to campus. Downtown was packed and crazy. A party on every hall in Johnstone. The Quad was rocking. Nobody could believe it. And yes, from that moment forward, it seemed like Clemson Football was suddenly relevant. The whole mood changed. People who'd typically given away their tickets started attending games. The students and the whole fanbase were totally energized. You could FEEL it. It was palpable. We went on to have a great season, and Clemson Football was never the same.

Yes, that game was The Turning Point.

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The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts. Bertrand Russell

Here's another great read about that game, and it's from a

Posted: Sep 17, 2020, 12:13 PM

soccer player on Norris Hall. Which is very cool for me, as I was in Norris Hall for 4 years and knew some of the soccer players well. The Chi Psi fraternity filled up the 1st floor of Norris, but never the 2nd floor, so we always had an odd mix and hodge-podge of "leftovers". For ex, me & my roommate. We applied very late and got a letter saying that freshman housing was full, but to show up for orientation as there were always last minute openings. So we lucked up... got assigned to Norris, and never had to live in Johnstone. The rest of the hall were others like us, a few guys from the swimming/diving team, a few soccer players, etc. I'm still in touch with "Popsie" as we called him - Benedict Popoola. Anyway, here's the article:


It had been a long drought at Clemson going into the 1977 season. No bowl game since 1959 and only one winning season in the previous nine years. Plus, to open the season, the Tigers had lost to defending ACC Champion Maryland in Death Valley, 21-14. However, anyone who was around the football team got the sense that there was a new excitement and confidence among the players.

In 1977, I was a sophomore on the Clemson soccer team. Even though the football program had struggled, in the bottom floor of Jervey Athletic Center where both our respective locker rooms were located, you couldn’t help but notice the change in the football program.

“In 1977, we were much more mature, confident and business-like in our approach to football,” said Steve Fuller who would be the 1977 ACC Player of the Year as a junior quarterback. “We were going to get better in large part due to the successful recruiting classes Clemson had beginning in 1974. Plus, although it is a process that I would recommend you should utterly avoid at all costs,” laughed Fuller, “through two losing seasons, we had learned from our mistakes under fire. We just needed to taste some success on the field.”

In the training room we shared, there was no mistaking that a transformation had taken place in the spring and accelerated into the fall. Even my talented soccer teammates from South America, the Middle East, the Caribbean and Africa who didn’t grow up with American football instinctively knew that the football team had developed a winning attitude. Plus, one of our teammates would play a key role in the football team’s success.

The quiet metamorphosis started in December 1976 when the late Charlie Pell was elevated to head coach after being the Clemson defensive coordinator. Pell brought in seven new assistant coaches including Danny Ford. Ford, Jimmye Laycock, and Joe Kines, went on to be collegiate head coaches. Mickey Andrews went on to be the defensive coordinator on several Florida State national championship teams.

“From an offensive perspective with the talent we had, we all felt confident we were going to be successful,” said Fuller who is today a partner of the Colleton River Development Company in Hilton Head. “However, the new offensive system under Coach Laycock seemed better suited to the type of talent we had on the team. As a unit, we were excited about the possibilities after spring practice and heading into the season.”

In addition to Fuller, Jerry Butler, Joe Bostic, Jeff Bostic, Jimmy Weeks, Steve Kenney, and Lacy Brumley started on offense. On defense, Archie Reese, Steve Ryan, Randy Scott, Rex Varn, Jonathan Brooks, and Jim Stuckey, were the defensive anchors. Freshman punter Dave Sims and first-year field goal kicker Obed Ariri from the soccer team helped make the Clemson special teams consistent weapons. Many of these players would go on to have long careers in the NFL and play in Super Bowls.

However, after the opening loss to Maryland, the Tigers headed to Athens, GA on September 17 with an 0-1 record. Georgia was the defending SEC Champion and Clemson had not won in Athens since 1914.

“Going into the Georgia game, we felt we had a chance,” recalled Fuller. “We had played well against a good Maryland team. We knew the Georgia game was going to be a test to see where we stood as a football team. It turned out to be a grind it out game that wasn’t too much fun to watch. It came down to a bunch of young guys finding a way to win.”

The soccer team was scheduled to play Alabama-Huntsville the following day, so I sat in my dorm room in Norris Hall listening to Jim Phillips. It was an overcast, wet day. The game was scoreless at halftime and you could hear students outside talking in cautiously optimistic tones. Georgia’s 41-0 win in Death Valley in 1976 was still fresh on everyone’s mind.

In the third quarter, tailback Lester Brown scored on a three-yard run to put Clemson ahead, 7-0. The Clemson defense continued to dig-in as the game seemed to inch along at a snail’s pace. The Bulldogs were relentless as was their trademark under Head Coach Vince Dooley. The Bulldogs came back to score on a seven-yard pass with 20 seconds left. Dooley went for the victory but the two-point conversion pass fell harmlessly to the ground in the end zone.

As the final gun sounded, you could hear the roar of the Clemson fans in Sanford Stadium. Meanwhile, Clemson students commenced their own celebration on campus. Students came out of their dorms finding countless ways to make noise and cast aspersions in the direction of the state of Georgia. Music seemed to blare from every window. You could hear car horns all across campus. Spontaneous parties sprang up everywhere. Downtown taverns became loud, boisterous and packed.

“That was the first ‘light up a cigar in victory’ game,” said Fuller of Coach Pell’s tradition started at Georgia of handing out victory cigars. “We really came together as a team that day. You got a sense that everyone understood that we were going to live and die together as a group.”

A throng of students and fans waited to greet the team when it arrived back at Mauldin Hall. Clemson students celebrated with characteristic staying power throughout the night. I remember because it was difficult to get to sleep as celebrations periodically erupted on the quad.

“The next week was much more fun going to class,” said Fuller who was later an NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarship winner. “After two losing seasons and feeling like you had been letting everybody down, it felt good to be able to stick your chest out a little bit. From that point on, there was a connection between the students, the fans, and the players. Everybody knew we were headed in the right direction.”

The Georgia game launched the Tigers on a seven-game winning streak. The 18-year bowl drought ended when Clemson earned a berth in the Gator Bowl following a thrilling 31-27 comeback win at South Carolina thanks to the immortal, last second Fuller to Butler touchdown pass. Clemson finished 8-3-1 in 1977 and followed up with an 11-1 season in 1978.

Looking back, the seeds of rebirth for Clemson football were planted by a group of talented, young players who suffered through two losing seasons during trial by fire. Those players and their perseverance were first validated on that memorable, historic day in Athens. The game set the tone for a decade of football greatness at Clemson. From 1977 to 1989, the Tigers averaged winning nine games a season and won the 1981 national championship,

Oh yeah, by the way, we beat Alabama-Huntsville 4-0 the next day in soccer and went on to an undefeated regular season. I remember there was a deafening silence all across campus on that September 18. There also weren’t quite as many students as usual at our game. I figure a lot of them were sleeping in.


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The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts. Bertrand Russell

That's back when people started figuring out

Posted: Sep 17, 2020, 12:15 PM

which state Clemson was in.


Re: On This Date: 1977 Clemson- 7 (17)Georgia- 6

Posted: Sep 17, 2020, 8:11 PM

A buddy from HS was attending uga at the time. Went to visit him for the weekend and go watch us play. He advised me to stay under the radar, so I played it cool the whole weekend. Sitting in the student section I wasn't anticipating any issues and just hoped for a decent showing.

It was a wet mess of a game. Every time we did something good, he would punch me in the arm to keep me from cheering. I ended up with a mighty sore arm but a great memory. He wasn't a big sports fan and could not have cared less on the outcome. lol


Re: On This Date: 1977 Clemson- 7 (17)Georgia- 6

Posted: Sep 17, 2020, 8:16 PM

Cigars Baby ! I loved Charley Pell's winning attitude.


Re: On This Date: 1977 Clemson- 7 (17)Georgia- 6

Posted: Sep 17, 2020, 9:02 PM

I was on a scuba diving trip in Morehead City, NC that weekend. We dove Saturday and got in late and crashed. Sunday we got up and grabbed breakfast and a paper. I openned the paper up and saw the score and had to lay the paper down to absorb it! I had missed the Maryland game due to a bad cold. One of my friends who went was so excited about what he saw that he was hang out of the car window shouting, " We are on our way!"

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Re: On This Date: 1977 Clemson- 7 (17)Georgia- 6

Posted: Sep 18, 2020, 2:35 PM

Pell laid the foundation that Danny built upon but Pell deserted Clemson

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Re: On This Date: 1977 Clemson- 7 (17)Georgia- 6

Posted: Sep 18, 2020, 5:19 PM

Turning point: I think you also have to include the 1976 game against the Coots-we dominated them 27-7 to set the stage for 1977.


Our program turned around on that day.***

Posted: Sep 18, 2020, 10:00 PM

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