Key plays make by QBs in USC-Clemson games

1933: Gamecocks strike on third-and-long

A holding penalty threatened to squelch a promising opportunity and left the Gamecocks facing third-and-19 at the Clemson 25 early in a scoreless game. Quarterback Harold Mauney, who would rush for 147 yards and pass for 39, rolled to the left behind a wall of blockers, stopped suddenly and flipped a short pass. Fred Hambright grabbed the ball and did the rest, starting down the sidelines before cutting to the center to score South Carolina's touchdown in a 7-0 victory.

1949: QB doubtful? Yes, but ...

Winless in three games and with quarterback Bo Hagan injured, the Gamecocks fell behind 13-0, and fans began to think about "next year." But the wounded warrior hobbled off the bench in the second quarter and delivered one of the series' most inspirational performances. With the score tied in the fourth quarter, Hagan rolled out and fired across the field to end Jim Pinkerton, who had been left alone by the Clemson defense. The scoring play covered 40 yards, and the Gamecocks added another score for a 27-13 victory.

1957: Too young? No, indeed

Clemson sophomore Harvey White introduced himself to the rivalry by leading the Tigers on a scoring drive later in the second half and connecting on a 15-yard pass with Sonny Quesenberry for a 6-0 lead. But the play he remembers more came in the third quarter and set up the clinching points in the Tigers' 13-0 win.

With the ball on the Clemson 39, White fired long to end Whitey Jordan at the Carolina 25. "There wasn't a Gamecock in sight," White says. "Whitey was headed for the goal, and the ball just popped out of his hands." The ball went out of bounds at the 1-yard line and Clemson scored on the next play, but White does not let Jordan forget the bobble.

"His story is that nobody would remember him if he had just run into the end zone and scored," White says. "But for whatever reason, I remember that play more than any other in my three seasons. The best thing is that we won."

1965: Ol' Mo-(Mentum) changes sides

Clemson started fast, opened a 10-0 lead in the second quarter and looked like an easy winner.

The Tigers' defense had pressured quarterback Mike Fair unmercifully, and they came again on a third-and-12 play from the USC 25. This time, Fair escaped, ducking the rush and lofting a bomb toward J.R. Wilburn for a 50-yard gain, and suddenly the Gamecocks came to life.

Linebacker Bob Gunnels preserved Carolina's 17-16 win by deflecting a 2-point conversion attempt in the final minute and rightfully earned the headlines. But there can be no doubt that the Fair-to-Wilburn bomb turned the game around.

1977: The Butler did it

In perhaps the most thrilling game in the series, the Gamecocks erased a 24-0 deficit to seize a 27-24 advantage in the final minutes. Back came the Tigers, with quarterback Steve Fuller throwing to Rick Weddington for 26 yards and to Dwight Clark for 18 before his famed strike to Jerry Butler on a 20-yard play that broke Carolina's heart.

"It was surreal in the huddle (to start the last drive)," Fuller says. "The level of confidence was still there. You can look into (teammates') eyes and tell a lot, and we were not intimidated at all."

The winning pass "was a first-down play, and we had plenty of time," Fuller says. "I threw it where either Jerry would catch it or it would be incomplete." He pauses, then adds, "Nine times out of ten, it would have been incomplete."

The tenth time, however, gave Clemson a 31-27 win and became perhaps the most remembered play in more than a century's worth of games.

1984: Hocus pocus: a final Black Magic act

The Gamecocks' perfect season had been shattered a week earlier, and Clemson opened a 21-3 lead at Death Valley. USC charged back, but the Tigers led 21-15 in the final minutes and the visitors faced third-and-7 at their 19-yard line.

Quarterback Mike Hold, who had completed five of 23 passes, saved his best for last. He launched a game-turning strike to Chris Wade for 36 yards to the Clemson 45. The Gamecocks turned to the ground game, ate up the remaining distance in five plays (plus one penalty) and captured a 22-21 triumph that ranks among the series' most exciting battles.

"Everybody in the stadium knew we had to drop back and throw, and most of our passing game had been off play-action, so that made it a little different," Hold says. "We had to have it, and I had to get the ball over a defensive back to Chris.

"There are two things I remember about that drive. First, when we came out, one of the linemen said in the huddle, 'We're going to get it,' and we did. The other is the play before the big pass. We had a play for the halfback to throw back to the quarterback, and Clemson almost intercepted the ball. If they made the interception, we never get that long pass."

1987: Lightning bolt strikes

The Gamecocks had dominated for most of three quarters yet trailed 7-6. The game changed in the twinkling of an eye. Quarterback Todd Ellis dropped back and fired to Ryan Bethea on a crossing route. Bethea bolted 77 yards before Donnell Woolford made a touchdown-saving tackle. No problem for Carolina; Harold Green scored on the next play, and Brad Edwards' interception return for a touchdown put the finishing touches on one of Carolina finest performances, a 20-7 victory over a nationally ranked opponent.

"We had been saving that play, and I remember two things," Ellis says. "First, I slipped and almost fell in making my drop. Second, Michael Dean (Perry) came pretty clear, and I had to sidestep him. Ryan was wide open in the middle of the field. Normally, the play would gain 15 or 20 yards, but Ryan split the defenders, and it would have been nice if he had gone all the way. Woolford showed great speed and athleticism in catching him."

2000: Did he or didn't he? The debate still rages

Carolina hung on to a one-point lead late, and Clemson had only a hope and a prayer. Sometimes, prayers are answered.

Quarterback Woody Dantzler launched a desperation pass toward Rod Gardner, who battled Carolina defender Andre Goodman for position and for the ball. Did the receiver interfere? In the only opinion that mattered, the official said no. The 50-yard completion set up Aaron Hunt's chip-shot field goal for a 16-14 Clemson victory.

2005: First and 35? No sweat.

Clemson trailed 9-6, and coach Tommy Bowden had considered replacing quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. To compound the Tigers' problems, two penalties left them in a first-and-35 bind with less than nine minutes remaining. Impossible? No, Whitehurst said, and he led his team to a 13-9 triumph.

He flipped a shovel pass to James Davis for 9 yards, found Chansi Stuckey across the middle for 14 and connected with Curtis Baham for 28 on third-and-12. Davis did the rest on runs of 23, 2 and 2 yards.

Which pass made the biggest impact? The third one left the Gamecocks reeling, but the first two injected a needed dose of confidence.

"The honest-to-goodness truth is I felt so calm at first-and-35," Whitehurst said after the game. "Getting down there at crunch time, I might have even said that at one point. Nobody was probably listening to me. But picking (the first down) up, it was kind of like (winning) was meant to be."

2007: Third and 18? Same plot, same result

Two years later, Cullen Harper took over Whitehurst's role on the Tigers' late-game march to a winning field goal.

Clemson took over at its 22-yard line with 2:09 remaining and Carolina in front 21-20. Harper fired to Aaron Kelly for 26 yards, but two plays lost 8 yards. On third-and-18, Harper found Kelly for 14 yards, and on fourth-and-4, the same combo clicked for 12 yards with 43 seconds remaining. Why change now? The Tigers didn't, and Harper threw to Kelly for 18 yards to the Gamecocks' 16 to set up Mark Buchholz's decisive field goal on the final play.

- Compiled by Bob Spear

Related stories from The State in Columbia SC