For 30 years, Howard ruled Death Valley, gathering two Southern Conference titles and six ACC championships, 165 wins and two unbeaten seasons. His career extended through three full decades, three major wars and both one platoon and two platoon sets of playing rules. It was only natural that in 1989 he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in honor of his tenure.
While the program had its ups and downs during Howard’s reign, those two unbeaten seasons were his crowning achievements. After polishing off 11 straight wins just two years earlier, his 1950 entry was deadlocked on Big Thursday by its in-state South Carolina rival, but they ran through the rest of their schedule with supreme ease, outscoring their opponents by a lopsided count of 315-48. And when the Orange Bowl Committee began scouting out teams for its New Year’s Day festivities, the Tigers were a perfect choice to face the hometown Hurricanes.
Not that Clemson exactly expected a breeze. In fact a Hurricane would be more like it, as Miami not only had the home-field advantage, it also had compiled a similar unbeaten, once tied record. During the leadup to the game, the betting line fluctuated almost daily, but by kickoff time the Tigers were one-point favorites.
The game itself lived up to all expectations. The Tigers dominated the line of scrimmage all day, and raced in front 13-0 early in the third quarter. But just when they were about to take a commanding three-touchdown lead, an end zone interception shifted the momentum, and by the end of the third quarter Miami had taken a 14-13 lead, on the margin of that missed Clemson extra point.
But just when things looked bleak for the Tigers, a series of 15-yard penalties pinned the Hurricanes deep into their own territory, and right guard Sterling Smith charged into the end zone and brought down Miami’s Frank Smith for the safety that restored the one point advantage to the Tigers. From that point coach Howard’s defense took over, and when the final gun sounded the Tigers were in Miami territory, winners by the exact margin the bookies figured.
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