(Almost) Forgotten Clemson Bowl Games: Vol 7

2010 Meineke Car Care Bowl: Clemson vs. South Florida

This game was the ninth edition of the Meineke Car Care Bowl and was played at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC. This matchup featured the South Florida Bulls of the Big East Conference and the Clemson Tigers of the ACC.

This game was the last game of the series to be called the Meineke Car Care Bowl, as the bowl organizers terminated their title sponsorship agreement with the parent company of Meineke, effective in 2011. As of 2011, it would be known as the Belk Bowl.

For the third straight season, South Florida entered its bowl game with a 7–5 record. The 2010 Meineke Car Care Bowl marked the 6th straight season that the Bulls played in the postseason. After some struggles early on, the Bulls took off late. They won four of their final six, including an overtime victory at Miami and nearly knocked off league champion Connecticut. This was South Florida’s second appearance in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

The Tigers came into the game with a 6–6 record following 2010 season, after winning the ACC Atlantic a year earlier. Clemson ranked No. 9 nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 17.75 points per game, but lost three of their final five, including the season finale to rival South Carolina, the first of five straight losses to the Gamecocks. This was the Tigers first appearance in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. The bowl game marked the first ever meeting between the two schools.

I made the short drive up I-77 to Charlotte for the game. It was a solitary journey. I had our usual 6 tickets but no one wanted to travel. I managed to give four of the extra tickets (I kept one to accommodate my large butt) to a young family making their first ever bowl trip, and they added joy to the night. The crowd, by today’s standards, was mediocre at best, a little over 35,000 but a huge number of fellow Clemson faithful made it feel like a home game.

It was a very interesting game, but the Tigers lost 31-28. A close but no cigar kind of game to end an even more frustrating season, but there were changes on the horizon. That game would prove to be an segway into the most prosperous decade ever for Clemson Football. Great things lay ahead but on that night, who could have even imagined?

2014 Russell Athletic Bowl.: Clemson vs. Oklahoma

Cole Stoudt, Deshaun Watson. After the rollercoaster ride that was the Tigers 2014 season saw Stoudt begin the season as the starter but shared time with freshman phenom. After game 4, it was obvious a change had to be made. Watson took the wheel.

Watson preformed brilliantly. When healthy. Like the team player he was, Stoudt showed integrity and leadership by staying and supporting from the sidelines. Unfortunately, Watson was injured late in the season and had to have post-season surgery. To complicate matters, offensive coordinator Chad Morris left to lead the SMU Mustangs. With no Watson, no Morris, things looked tough.

The No 18 Tigers were invited to play Bob Stoops’ Oklahoma Sooners in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando. As always, the media crowned Oklahoma the winner before the game even began but honestly, even some of us in the Clemson family had doubts. There was a real disparity in talent level between Watson and Stoudt and it was a cause of much concern. But Dabo Swinney had a plan. Enter Brandon Streeter as quarterback coach. He had one job, get Stoudt ready.

As the game started, the fans collectively held their breath, waiting to see if Stoudt could lead his team to a victory. In a totally one-sided game, the Tigers trounced the “Chokelahoma” Sooners 40-6. The legend of Clemson’s ‘QB Whisper,’ Brandon Streeter, was born. It was a fantastic way for both the season and Stoudt’s career to end. It was a great springboard to six straight playoff berths, including two of Clemson’s three national championships.

This ends my look back of some of Clemson’s (almost) forgotten bowl games. I hope this has been an enjoyable side trip to the upcoming Cheez-It Bowl tomorrow. Thanks for reading, and enjoy the game.

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