Enright knew how to beat Clemson

bspear@thestate.comNovember 23, 2012 

Steve Spurrier can pass Rex Enright and become the winningest coach in USC history with a victory against Clemson on Saturday.

Spurrier is one of three USC coaches with a winning record against Clemson. In the past half-century, Marvin Bass also had a winning record against the Tigers.

But the standard that the garnet and black faithful like best goes back to the days of Enright.

In a word, Enright “owned” the Tigers during the seasons that followed World War II. His teams racked up a 7-1-1 record against Clemson between 1946-54 and came within a whisker of a 9-0 streak. The only loss came on a blocked punt, and the Tigers, coach Frank Howard said, “lost the tie” in the 1950 classic.

“Carolina hired him in 1938 with a mandate to be competitive and beat Clemson,” said Don Barton, a former Columbia sports editor and onetime sports information director at USC.

Eventually, his teams did just that.


1938: Clemson 34, USC 12

Hired to bolster the Gamecocks’ fortunes against Clemson, Rex Enright received a rude introduction to the series. The Tigers scored three first-quarter touchdowns en route to their fifth consecutive victory against USC.

1939: Clemson 27, USC 0

The unexpected — Banks McFadden passing out of his end zone — ignited the Tigers’ 99-yard march that broke the game open in the second half.

1940: Clemson 21, USC 13

The Tigers led all the way and made Frank Howard’s coaching debut in the series a success. The Gamecocks’ touchdowns came on a punt and an interception return.

1941: USC 18, Clemson 14

The Gamecocks opened an 18-0 lead and held on to end Clemson’s seven-game winning streak in the series. USC fans celebrated by giving Enright a new automobile, and school president J. Rion McKissick canceled classes the next day.

1942: Clemson 18, USC 6

World War II sapped both squads of manpower, and both struggled through poor seasons. On “Big Thursday,” the Tigers used two long scoring plays in the second half to prevail.

1946: USC 26, Clemson 14

A pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns brought the Gamecocks from behind, and Enright’s mastery against Clemson had begun.

1947: USC 21, Clemson 19

Bobby Giles, who later gained coaching fame at old Olympia High, returned an interception to the Clemson 1-yard line to set up the Gamecocks’ winning touchdown.

1948: Clemson 13, USC 7

Phil Prince blocked a punt that Oscar Thompson recovered for a touchdown in the final quarter to bring Clemson from behind and save the Tigers’ undefeated season. The Gamecocks did not lose again on “Big Thursday” until 1955, Enright’s last season.

1949: USC 27, Clemson 13

Winless and with quarterback Bo Hagan doubtful with an injury, the Gamecocks’ outlook seemed dim. But Hagan came off the bench, and his 40-yard pass to Jim Pinkerton ignited USC’s fourth-quarter rally.

1950: USC 14, Clemson 14

Steve Wadiak rushed for 256 yards to set the single-game school record and carry the Gamecocks to the brink of victory, but Fred Cone rallied the Tigers. The tie represented the only blot on Clemson’s record.

1951: USC 20, Clemson 0

In a game dominated by defense, the Gamecocks turned a fumble recovery into a short scoring drive and added touchdowns on Billy Stephens’ 76-yard punt return and Harry Jabbusch’s 15-yard interception return to upend Clemson’s Gator Bowl team.

1952: USC 6, Clemson 0

Johnny Gramling introduced himself to the rivalry with a first-quarter touchdown pass to Gene Wilson for the game’s only points. The USC defense restricted the Tigers to five first downs and 103 yards, all on the ground.

1953: USC 14, Clemson 7

Clemson, which switched from the single wing to the T-formation in 1953, ended its scoreless streak against the Gamecocks at 11 quarters, but Gramling and Hal Lewis fired touchdown passes to keep the Gamecocks’ series magic alive.

1954: USC 13, Clemson 8

The first safety in the series gave Clemson its first lead against the Gamecocks since 1949, but Mackie Prickett’s two touchdowns gave Carolina the victory. That gave USC its longest winning streak in the rivalry and boosted Enright’s post-World War II record against Clemson to 7-1-1.

1955: Clemson 28, USC 14

The Tigers ended a decade of mostly frustration against USC and finally pinned another loss on Enright. Clemson took command with a pair of first-quarter touchdowns.

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