College Football Throwback Thursday: Five great moments for Clemson under Dabo Swinney
Happy Birthday, Dabo Swinney!
OK, well not quite yet, but on Nov. 20, right after Clemson takes on Wake Forest, Swinney will be celebrating his 47th birthday. Tigers fans are hoping the team can gift Swinney with another win to add to his already impressive record at Clemson.
As a head coach in eight seasons (seven full seasons), Swinney posted a record of 75-27 (.735) overall and 47-14 (.770) in ACC regular-season games, according to Clemson Athletics. Also in his tenure as head coach, he led the Tigers to two ACC championship titles and won five bowl games as well as leading Clemson to their first appearance in the College Football Playoff, almost taking home the program’s second national title.
A lot has changed for Clemson since Swinney took over, so today, we throwback to Clemson football’s best moments since he took the reins.
Swinney’s First Victory
Just three weeks after being named interim head coach, on Nov. 1, 2008, Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers posted their first victory with him at the helm.
Some were hesitant about Swinney because in his first week as head coach, the Tigers posted a loss to Georgia Tech. However, after practicing through a bye week, Swinney led the Tigers to a win and evened out their record to 4-4.
He also brought the student body to stand behind him after inviting students to attend one of the team’s practices during the bye. According to Clemson Athletics, he interacted with many of the students, allowing some to attempt a field goal and leading them in cheers and chants.
According to the Associated Press, during the game, C.J. Spiller, who would later go on to the NFL, broke a Clemson record, catching six passes for 105 yards as a running back. He also posted a 57-yard touchdown to help the Tigers win, 27-21, over Boston College.
It was the first win Clemson posted over the Eagles since 1958.
The Six-Game Win Streaks
In his first full season as head coach, Swinney and the Tigers posted a streak of six-straight wins, which was the longest streak the program had in four years, according to Clemson Athletics. Also, during this streak, for the first time in school history, Clemson scored more than 34 points in each victory.
The streak included wins over No. 8-at-the-time Miami (Fla.) on the road. The Hurricanes are tied for the highest ranked team Clemson defeated on the road in history, and Florida State, who was coached by Hall of Fame coach Bobby Bowden.
This streak ultimately brought the Tigers to a No. 15 ranking after clinching the ACC Atlantic Division over Virginia.
First ACC title since 1991
In 2011, while the team ended the year ranked No. 22, Clemson secured its first ACC title since 1991 over No. 3 Virginia Tech, a win which also tied for the highest-ranked team the Tigers’ defeated in history at the time, according to Clemson Athletics.
This win led the Tigers to make their first appearance in the Orange Bowl since 1981, which is the year Clemson won the national title. It also marked the first time since that year that the Tigers defeated two top-10 teams in the same season.
That season was also the first 10-win season for the Tigers since 1990. Swinney brought a number of first-since moments to the Tigers, but the 2011 season seem to be the apex of firsts for Swinney and his Tigers.
4-0 record for ACC road games
2013 was an exciting year for the Tigers under Swinney. For the first time since 1995, the Tigers were 4-0 on the road in the ACC. But, they also posted an overall record of 11-2, marking Clemson’s first consecutive 11-win seasons in program history, according to Clemson Athletics.
Clemson suffered just a single loss to a conference opponent, according to Sports Reference. Against No. 5 Florida State, the Tigers were unable to produce points against a tough defense while the Seminoles’ offense churned out plenty, taking down the No. 3 team in the nation at the time.
This loss, along with a rough tumble against rival No. 10 South Carolina, caused Clemson to finish eighth in the nation that year. However, the Tigers still made it to the Orange Bowl to defeat No. 6 Ohio State. In 2014, the Tigers made another trip to the Orange Bowl, causing Swinney to be the first and only coach to win three consecutive bowl games over teams coached by individuals who had previously won the national title.
First CFP appearance
After years of building the program up, Swinney finally ended up with a team that made it to the national title game.
The Tigers spent 2015 undefeated with talented play-caller Deshaun Watson in the lead, and after finishing at No. 1 during the regular season, the Tigers moved on to take down Oklahoma 37-17 in the semis and prepared to face Alabama for the championship.
This close contest ended with the Crimson Tide on top by just five points.
Now, the Tigers, under Swinney’s lead, look to make another run toward the title, which has the potential to end with the Tigers facing the Tide yet again for the national title.
Will they prevail this year? It would be a pretty great late birthday present for Swinney.