As we head into the 2016 season, Clemson is among the favorites to win a national championship. And rightfully so, as they’re legitimately one of the best teams in the country and feature arguably the nation’s best player in Deshaun Watson. But 20 years ago, long before Syracuse joined the ACC, it was another dynamic young QB bursting onto the scene: Donovan McNabb.
At the end of the 1995 season, which was McNabb’s redshirt freshman campaign, an unranked Syracuse team got an invite to play No. 23 Clemson in the Gator Bowl. The Tigers, led by future Hall of Fame safety Brian Dawkins, were the favorites heading into the game.
But man, did things play out in extremely unexpected fashion. Even the most diehard Syracuse fans couldn’t have expected the utter asskicking that the Orangemen delivered on that day. McNabb completed 13-of-23 passes for 309 yards en route to being named the Gator Bowl MVP as Syracuse destroyed Clemson 41-0.
Marvin Harrison, recently inducted into the Hall of Fame, caught seven passes for 173 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his final college game. All-American cornerback Kevin Abrams had two interceptions as Syracuse limited Clemson to 159 yards of total offense. McNabb ran for a touchdown and threw for three, and running back Malcolm Thomas rushed for a pair of scores in the blowout win.
This was Syracuse football as it entered one of the most exciting eras in program history. This year, as Clemson looks to chase a national title, the Orange are hoping to get back to that same level of excitement under new head coach Dino Babers.
With that in mind, let’s throw it back to January 1, 1996 in the video above. Enjoy.