November 7th, 1981….
Clemson, who was unbeaten and ranked second in the country, traveled to Chapel Hill to take on #8 UNC with the ACC Championship and a major bowl bid on the line. UNC’s lone loss had come two weeks earlier, a 31-13 home loss to UofSC.
This was the first time in history that two top ten ACC teams faced off and was being billed as the biggest game ever in the state of North Carolina. It was also Homecoming for the Tarheels.
The Tigers were coming off an 82-14 win over Wake Forest and head coach Danny Ford knew this would be his teams toughest remaining test. Clemson had already beaten #4 Georgia at home, earlier in the season. Ford would later say,
“I was concerned about how we can play physically with this team. We were out-muscled in 1980, which did not happen too often with our football teams. Their game plan in 1980 was to out-muscle Clemson, and I think they did it. We knew that’s what they were going to try and do again.”
All American LB Jeff Davis would later say about the UNC game,
“The North Carolina game did
more for us winning the national
championship than any other game. It was the ultimate test for us. We expected to win in Death
Valley and we expected teams to already be behind when the whistle blew in Death Valley. But, to go into the backyard of a top 10 football team with everything at stake, and win, that did it for us.”