A few days ago I was reminiscing over the great games that I have been blessed enough to witness either in person, on TV, or through the great ability to watch via the internet. While doing that I started thinking about the great catches that the Clemson program has had over the years, and here is the list that I put together as my personal top ten.
10. Justin Ross’ One Handed Grab (Alabama 2018): Clemson wide receiver Justyn Ross put on a show in the second half of the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship against Alabama. With Clemson facing a third and long at Alabama’s 37 yard line, Ross went up and hauled in a pass from fellow freshman sensation Trevor Lawrence along the sideline, reaching back with his right arm to pluck the ball out of the air and still somehow manage to get a foot down inbounds.
9. Tee Higgins One Handed Catch (Notre Dame 2018): Wow, what Tee Higgins was able to do on the final play before halftime in the first College Football Playoff semifinal game was just that…..another Wow moment. The touchdown gave Clemson a 23-3 lead on the Irish heading into halftime and helped the Tigers dismantle Notre Dame 30-3 on their way to their third National Championship.
8. Jamie Harper’s Acrobatic Grab (Auburn 2010): Coming in at number eight is an incredible catch by Jamie Harper from Kyle Parker that gave Clemson a 17-0 first half lead on Auburn back in the 2010 matchup that ended bizarrely. Harper, the Tigers ’s running back, was placed in motion out of the backfield and went full-extension with his dive for a 24 yard touchdown from Parker. Dabo Swinney is seen in the video and was just as spirited back then as an assistant coach as he has been as the head coach for the Tigers.
7. Mike Williams Carries Defender On Back (UofSC 2016): On this play Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson hit Mike Williams over the middle inside the 10 yard line, and the big receiver did the rest. He dragged/carried Gamecocks defensive back Jamarcus King all the way into the end zone to give Clemson a two touchdown lead. The Tigers never looked back winning the game 56-7.
6. “The Catch 2.0” (UofSC 2000): The 98th battle of the Palmetto State’s two biggest schools came down to a controversial catch from Clemson All-American Rod Gardner. The play made the game one of the best and most talked about in the long standing rivalry. With only 19 seconds left, Woody Dantzler led the Tigers back on the field following a timeout, staring at a third and 12 situation from their own 42. When he took the shotgun snap, Dantzler rolled to his left, drawing the safety away from Gardner. He then stopped and threw a high, deep ball to the right.
Gardner, who caught the decisive 29 yard touchdown the year before against the Gamecocks on a fourth down play, ran a go route down the far sideline. South Carolina had cornerback Andre Goodman underneath in coverage and safety Deandre Eiland deep as the ball went sailing through the air.
Gardner hauled in the 50 yard pass, while falling backwards. When he settled to the ground, Clemson had the football at the South Carolina eight with 10 seconds left, setting Aaron Hunt field goal up for a 25 yard field goal to win the game 16-14.
5. “The Catch” (UofSC 1977): The number 5 spot goes to another piece of the rivalry in Clemson and South Carolina history. After the Gamecocks heard about Charlie Pell buying his players victory cigars for their first win over Georgia in Athens since 1914, they were none too happy. So late in the game after Phil Logan raced 40 yards for a touchdown that gave the Gamecocks a 27-24 lead with one minute and 48 seconds to play, Logan and his teammates were confident the game was over and Logan was seen lifting his jersey to the crowd revealing a garnet t-shirt with white letters which read “No Cigar Today.”
This seemed to irk the Clemson offense. Facing a third down and seven, Steve Fuller hit Rick Weddington for a 26 yard first down. After an incompletion, Fuller found Dwight Clark across the middle for 18 yards and this set up the Tigers at the Gamecock 18 yard line.
The Tigers quickly rushed to the line to run another play and when Fuller noticed South Carolina’s defense was confused and were having issues getting players onto the field, they ran a play that called for Jerry Butler to cut to the corner. UofSC got pressure to Fuller though and forced him to throw the ball earlier than he would have liked. Butler then made a leaping, twisting catch that no one else could have made in that game.
4. Hunter Renfrow’s Game Saver (Syracuse 2018): Coming in at number 4 is a catch that quite possibly may have saved the Tigers season. Backup quarterback Chase Brice, in for the injured Trevor Lawrence, threw a pass in the general direction of Renfrow, but was well behind him. He contorted his body and hauled in the pass that kept hope alive and helped Clemson score a field goal to pull to within one score in a game that they would later go onto win.
3. “4th and 16” (LSU 2012): Trailing 24-22, Clemson took possession on its own 20 with 1:39 left in the game. After a timeout Boyd completed a sliding pass to DeAndre Hopkins for 26 yards on a fourth and 16 play during the decisive 10-play drive that led to the game winning 37 yard Field goal by Chandler Catanzaro as time expired. Many still claim that this was the drive and play that led to the success that Swinney and his Tigers are having now.
2. Perry Tuttle Catch In Orange Bowl (Nebraska 1981): In the third quarter of the Orange Bowl, Clemson’s Homer Jordan threw a 13 yard touchdown pass to Perry Tuttle that helped the Tigers extend a lead they would not give up.
This catch became the most memorable image of Clemson’s 1981 National Championship, as the picture of the All American wide receiver was the front cover of the first Sports Illustrated issue after Clemson’s 22-15 victory over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl and their first National Championship.
1.Hunter Renfrow Game-Winner (Alabama 2016): Another catch on this list that was considered by many to be a controversial play. The Tigers beat the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide on this gorgeous throw from Deshaun Watson to wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, who was pretty wide open in the end zone. It was called a pick play.
Keep in mind that pick plays can be legal, as long as there is no offensive pass interference. In the play above, the defender initiates the contact, so it can’t be classified as offensive pass interference. Since the defender initiated the contact, that contact is not the responsibility of the receiver.
Are there more? Of course. Are there others that some may feel were more important or larger than the ones on this list? I’m sure. If you can think of one that you felt could be in the top 10 then give me a shout and let me know. It was an enjoyment putting this list together and hope to put some other similar to this out in the future.