#TBT: 1989 Gator Bowl
This week’s #TBT game takes Tiger fans back to the 1989 Mazda Gator Bowl. This game was played on December 30, 1989 at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida. The game in which Clemson almost killed Major Harris.
The Clemson Tigers who were ranked 14th at the time took down the 17th ranked West Virginia Mountaineers. The final score was 27–7.
The scoring was opened by West Virginia in the first quarter when the Mountaineers scored on a 12 yard pass. After the PAT was good they led 7–0.
Clemson responded in the second quarter, converting a 27 yard field goal and then got a 1 yard touchdown run and PAT. The Tigers took a 10–7 lead into halftime.
The third quarter was scoreless but the fourth quarter saw Clemson score again on a 4 yard run and PAT to widen their lead to 17–7. Clemson’s defense got them six more when they recovered a fumble in the end zone to score yet another touchdown. The PAT gave the Tigers a commanding 24–7 lead.
Clemson then finished the scoring with a 24 yard field goal giving them the game 27–7.
The Tigers finished the game with eight more first downs, 139 more rushing yards, and 111 more total yards than the Mountaineers. West Virginia finished with 28 more passing yards than Clemson.
As a result of their victory the Tigers jumped up two spots from #14 in the polls to #12 and that’s where they finished the 1989 season while the Mountaineers dropped from #17 to #21.
Little did Clemson fans know that this would be Danny Ford’s final game as the Tigers head coach. Coach Ford would end up resigning on January 18, 1990 after a falling out with the Clemson administration. He was also subsequently cleared in an NCAA investigation that also was announced around the same time.
While at Clemson Coach Ford defeated a number of coaches later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Including Dan Devine, Joe Paterno, Tom Osborne, Barry Switzer, Bobby Bowden, Vince Dooley, Don Nehlen, and Woody Hayes. He compiled a 96–29–4 (.760) record at Clemson. This included a 6–2 bowl record.
At the time of his resignation, he was the second winningest coach in school history behind only Frank Howard. This was a distinction he would maintain until 2017 when he was passed by current Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney. He was the third winningest coach in the country on a percentage basis after the 1989 season. Coach Ford also coached 21 All-Americans and 41 players who went on to play in the NFL during his 11 seasons at Clemson.