Editor's Note: This article was first published in the Jan. 5, 1979 issue of The Orange & White following Clemson’s 17-15 win over Ohio State in the 1978 Gator Bowl.
By Steve Ellis
“For awhile, I thought I was going to be the youngest guy to have a heart attack in the world.” So said Danny Ford as the 30-year old coach watched his Tigers defeat the Buckeyes from Ohio State, 17-15, Friday night in the Gator Bowl.
Instead, Ford, as a result of his win as a head coach might have been the happiest man in the world. “This means a bunch to us, to Clemson, the players, all of us,” Ford explained above the din of celebration going on around him. “It was a very big win for the program. I’m very pleased and proud of the way we performed out there.
‘If all the games are like this one then I don’t know if I want to be a head coach,” he kidded. “It was just a great game… very exciting. A lot of those guys gave a tremendous effort.”
And according to Ford no individual group could have outdone the effort that the Tiger defense did that night. They earned the praise of Ford by stopping the Buckeyes’ two threatening drives early in the game, blocking an extra point attempt, stopping a two-point conversion try and finally killing a drive that quite possibly could have produced the winning score for Ohio State.
“Our defense played real well early,” the Alabama graduate said. “They did a heck of a job. Our defense played good all night. Ohio State tried to put us away early and our defense wouldn’t allow it. The defense played better than I have ever seen, and they have put in some great efforts.”
Even the fine defensive effort against Maryland, Ford thought was outdone by the play against Ohio State. Ford cited the early play of the defense as an incentive for the rest of the team. And it was a defensive play that he thought was the key to the win – Steve Gibbs’ blocked extra point.
Ford’s praise for the defense was not limited to those on the playing field. His defensive coaches, Ford observed, “did a dang good job themselves.”
Clemson was short two coaches, Joe Kines and Dwight Adams had resigned earlier to coach at the University of Florida. As a result, Ford said those coaches had to work extra hard to prepare the team.
Defensive play certainly did not win the game alone, a fact Ford was obviously quite aware of. “We started somewhat slow but after they (Ohio State) had that field goal we began to play a little more inspired on offense. Steve (Fuller) just played a heck of a game. I think they need to go back and recount those Heisman votes. He is a great leader, does very well in the classroom and is a very good football player. All our seniors did a great job,” continued Ford. “This game certainly meant a lot to them. They worked very hard, all the kids did. We came prepared.”
Ford insisted that his team not only displayed a powerful performance, but a classy one at that. “We showed a lot of class. I have a lot of praise for those kids and not just for their effort on the team. Everyone had the highest praise for the way they behaved down here. I have nothing but praise for them. This was a classy effort.”
For a man named Woody Hayes there would be no such compliments from Ford. Hayes, late in the game had hit Clemson’s Charlie Bauman after Bauman had stopped State’s last minute drive with an interception. “He did something on the sidelines that cost his team thirty yards,” Ford said of Hayes’ display of temper. “I was also a little disturbed that he got some extra practice time before the game – it should be equal time, Last night I read Coach Hayes’ book. I’m glad I did. Now I’ve seen the movie."
Ford, however, still had praise for Hayes the coach and his Buckeye team. “He’s a great coach. I’ll still take his autograph. Ohio State has very good personnel, a very good team. I would like to get some of those Ohio kids, they can play football.”
The mention of Ohio’s great prep players had Ford talking about the work that he said would resume quickly for him and his staff after a break of a day or two. “We have a lot of work to do,” Ford said of his preparations for next year. “All of us will be meeting next Wednesday. We lose some good football players.”
Ford showed little concern for the effect that the coaching changes had or might have on the program. “Things went real well with the kids,” Ford observed. “We didn’t face any real problems except that our coaches had to work a little harder. We showed that we aren’t a bad football team.”