Clemson’s bid for a repeat of the 1948 perfect season ended when the
Tigers had to rely on the toe of Charlie Radcliff to tie South Carolina
after three season-opening shutouts. Clemson regrouped, however, with a
13-12 win at Wake Forest and then won the remaining four games by
convincing margins. The Tigers’ 8-0-1 mark and second-place finish in
the Southern Conference earned them a bid to play Miami, who was also
undefeated at 9-0-1, in the 17th Orange Bowl. Both teams had come into
the Orange Bowl with only a tie blemishing their schedules. Clemson was
rated tenth and Miami came in at fifteenth.
After a scoreless first quarter, Clemson got on track with a 45-yard
pass from Billy Hair to Bob Hudson that put the Tigers at the Miami one.
Fred Cone capped the 76-yard drive with a sweep for the score and
Radcliff tacked on the extra point (video).
Clemson mounted a six-play, 70-yard drive in the third quarter for its
second touchdown. Hair threw a 31-yard pass to Ray Mathews, who, as the
papers said, “made a circus catch with two men on his back,” to move the
Tigers to the Miami 28. Hair tossed a pass to Glenn Smith at the Miami
seven and Smith scrambled in for the score.
The third period, however, would belong to Miami. Miami caught fire when
Jack Delbello intercepted a pass in the Clemson end zone and returned it
to the 40, and then a 10-yard penalty was assessed on the Tigers for
unnecessary roughness. On the next play, Frank Smith ran a reverse for
45 yards to move to the Clemson five. Harry Mallios took a pitch from
quarterback Bob Schneidenbach in for the score and Gordon Watson added
the conversion. Miami drove 95 yards in just five plays for its second
score of the game. Ed Lutes caught a pass at midfield and rambled down
to the Clemson 17 before he was stopped. On fourth down, Jack Hackett
threw to Frank Smith for the score and Watson’s point put Miami in the
lead for the first time, 14-13 (video).
In the fourth quarter, Mallios’ 80-yard punt return was called back and
two clipping infractions along with one unnecessary roughness penalty
put Miami in a deep hole with six minutes left in the game. Frank Smith
took a pitch-out from Hackett, but before Smith could get out of the end
zone, Sterling Smith, a second-team defensive guard for Clemson, tripped
him up for a safety, and Clemson led 15-14 (video)
(video). Don Wade ended the last Miami
threat with an interception, his second of the game, and Clemson ran out
Sterling Smith and Billy Hair are remembered by Clemson fans in this
game, but and unsung hero was Fred Cone, who gained 81 yards on the
ground, scored once, punted four times and returned one kickoff.