Box 31; Clemson, SC 29633 with your return address.
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of the most memorable games in the history of Memorial Stadium, which is celebrating 75 years this season.
On Nov. 18, 1967, it probably was the shoes that enabled Clemson to upset No. 10 NC State 14-6 in the Tigers’ first win over a top-10 team in Death Valley. It was the highest-ranked team head coach Frank Howard defeated at home.
Coming into this ACC classic, the Wolfpack was in the middle of an outstanding year, defeating their first eight opponents. After a victory at Virginia in the eighth game, only two opponents remained, Penn State and Clemson, both on the road.
Before the Nittany Lions game, there was talk that NC State had a Sugar Bowl bid wrapped up provided there was at least a split in the last two games. The Wolfpack lost to Penn State 13-8, making the Clemson vs. NC State game even more crucial for the Wolfpack’s New Year’s Day bowl hopes.
The Wolfpack had become nationally famous in 1967 because of their tenacity and the distinctive white shoes worn by the defensive unit. At this time, every team in the nation, along with NC State’s offensive unit, was wearing black shoes.
NC State started wearing the white shoes on defense when former defensive back Bill Morrow noticed a member of the Kansas City Chiefs wearing white shoes.
Morrow, who scored the first touchdown for NC State on an interception return in the new Carter-Finley Stadium, went to co-captain Art McMahon with the idea. Linebacker Chuck Amato said he would paint his shoes white, and the idea spread throughout the defense.
NC State was tops in the ACC in defense coming into the Clemson game and was a heavy favorite to beat Howard’s 4-4 Tigers.
In the week before the game, a few Tigers wanted to paint their shoes orange to counteract the perceived intangible advantage of NC State’s white shoes.
“I remember a lot of players got together and we decided to paint our shoes orange,” recalled former Tiger running back Buddy Gore.
“Our trainer, Herman McGee, rounded up the orange paint needed for our idea, and we went to the dorm that week and painted our game shoes orange. I have no idea where he got all that orange paint. Coach Howard did not know what we were doing until that Saturday morning. But he liked our plan.”
Gore was one of Clemson’s greatest backs ever, and in 1967, he was named ACC Player-of-the-Year.
NC State jumped ahead 6-0 as Gerald Warren hit two second-quarter field goals from 37 and 47 yards with his back to a 22-mph wind.
Gore scored the lead touchdown for the Tigers early in the third quarter. With a third-and-11 situation facing the Tigers on NC State’s 27, Clemson was obviously facing a throwing situation.
“NC State was in a defense that would provide double coverage on the receivers and forced the linebackers to cover the man coming out of the backfield,” remembered Gore. “I was not the primary receiver by any means. After all, I only caught seven passes my entire career.
“I was in the flat around the 12-yard line and I was open after beating Chuck Amato. The cornerback and the safety were with our wide receivers. I will never forget when I was open. I looked at our quarterback, Jimmy Addison, and he stared right back at me and threw me the ball, and I went in for the touchdown.”
Prior to the game, Dennis Byrd, NC State’s All-America defensive tackle, had written Gore a letter that gave him extra incentive.
“Before the game, Byrd wrote me a letter that said I wouldn’t score,” said Gore. “Every time he tackled me during the game, he would say, ‘Gore, you stink.’
“After I caught that touchdown pass, I was coming out of the endzone and he was standing right there. I remember it like it was yesterday. I asked him, ‘How do I smell now?’”
Clemson scored on its next possession on a seven-yard run by Jacky Jackson and had a 14-6 lead with 7:45 left in the third quarter.
NC State drove to the Clemson 29 with three minutes left with a chance to tie the score on a touchdown and two-point conversion. But quarterback Jim Donnan’s pass was intercepted by Richie Luzzi in the endzone.
Clemson went on to win the game 14-6, ensuring the Tigers at least a share of the ACC title. They defeated South Carolina the next Saturday 23-12 to clinch the championship outright and finish with a 6-0 ACC mark.
“How many tackles did those orange shoes make, coach?” a sportswriter asked Howard after the game.
“None,” replied Howard. “But I tell you, there is something about football that makes boys believe in something that will help them.
“When they believe they can do something, they usually do it.”