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(Below Is An Excerpt From Article On TheACC.com)
The Tigers returned virtually everybody on defense from 1980 and it was an exceptional group. Jeff Davis was the man defensive back Terry Kinard says, "We looked to when things got rough." Davis made 175 tackles in 1981 and was selected ACC Player of the Year. But Davis is the first to acknowledge, "The linebackers don't get to make plays unless the linemen do the dirty work inside."
Clemson tackles Jeff Bryant and Dan Benish made All-ACC, while noseguards William Devane and William Perry controlled the middle. End Andy Headen and linebacker Danny Triplett were standouts, while Kinard was the league's top defensive back and a consensus All-America.
Unleashing this defense was the job of defensive coordinator Tom Harper, a veteran coach hired that season. Davis says, "Coach Harper was quite the feather in Coach Ford's hat. He was a calming influence. He devised a scheme that was in tune with our strengths. He simplified it, freeing us to attack. We were physical and aggressive. Lay our ears back and go after people."
Herschel Walker and Georgia's defending national champions rode into Death Valley with a 15-game winning streak. Georgia had handed Clemson its only loss in 1978 and had edged the Tigers 20-16 in 1980.
Walker rushed for 111 yards but it took him 28 carries. His fumble deep in Clemson territory in the first period was a harbinger of things to come. Kinard says, "This game was a tribute to our style of defense. Our front four dominated, they couldn't make adjustments, and their offense just fell apart."
Clemson harassed Georgia's Buck Belue into five interceptions and recovered four of Georgia's five fumbles. Forcing a team as talented as Georgia into nine turnovers was the epitome of Clemson's kick-sand-in-your-face-and-take-your-lunch-money style of defense. Georgia could muster a single field goal, while Clemson scored on a pass from Homer Jordan to Perry Tuttle and two field goals. Following the 13-3 Clemson win, Georgia coach Vince Dooley admitted, "Clemson intimidated us."
Jordan completed 11 of 18 passes, five of them to Tuttle, a speedy senior who would break several school records and make All-America. Although not as dominant as the defense, the Clemson offense was talented, balanced and experienced. Tailbacks Cliff Austin and Chuck McSwain gave Clemson a pair of top-level tailbacks, Jordan was a mobile and accurate passer, and Tuttle could stretch any defense. All-America tackle Lee Nanney and center Tony Berryhill anchored the line.
The offense was also in the hands of a new coordinator, Nelson Stokely. Tuttle says "Stokely brought some color to the offense. He understood the strengths and weaknesses of his players and he made things fun. He liked to attack."
The Georgia win put Clemson on the national radar screen. They jumped to ninth in the AP poll after the win.
Scott Rhymer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org