Mark Richt and Clemson have crossed paths at different times and in different ways.
Richt went up against the Tigers as an assistant for a powerhouse Florida State program in the 1990s.
He started his second and third years as Georgia’s head coach against Clemson in 2002 and 2003 in seasons that included back-to-back trips to the Southeastern Conference championship game.
He regularly goes up against the school across the border on the recruiting trail in pursuit of some of the Southeast’s top players.
And for one season he viewed Clemson from the perspective of a father. Son Jon redshirted as a quarterback there in 2008 before transferring.
Now, No. 8 Clemson presents a major hurdle for his fifth-ranked team on Saturday night in Death Valley.
Richt is 11-0 coaching against the Tigers, 9-0 an assistant with the Seminoles and 2-0 with Georgia, but the Tigers were never ranked higher than No. 10 in those matchups.
“It seemed like every time we’ve been there it’s been hot,” Richt said. “I mean just smoking hot. And of course we’re going to play at 8 o’clock this time. I don’t know if it’s going to be quite as hot.”
The forecast for Saturday calls for a high of 88 and a low of 70 with a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms.
The wins against Clemson for Richt weren’t always easy and the trip to and from the coaches’ box at Memorial Stadium certainly wasn’t.
“I remember as an assistant coach being up in the booth,” Richt said. “It was like a half mile to get back to the locker room. It was tough. You had to sprint just to make it down and sprint to make it by the time of the kickoff.”
Richt, busy coaching his own team, never made it over to Clemson for a game when his son was on the team but did go to the Georgia Dome to see the Tigers open the season against Alabama after Georgia had an afternoon game.
“I think I went to the spring game prior to him going there,” Richt said. “I was there on the recruiting trip. I was also there the summer he went to camp where they offered him a scholarship and all that kind of thing.”
Richt was in Tommy Bowden’s office when Jon, who played at Prince Avenue Christian, got the scholarship offer and managed to get away on signing day in 2008 to be with his wife Katharyn when Jon signed with Clemson in front of the school’s student body.
Clemson made a coaching change during the 2008 season. Bowden was out. Dabo Swinney was in. After that one season, Jon transferred to Division II Mars Hill College in North Carolina, where he played for four years.
“Jon’s just got a great demeanor to him,” Swinney told the Post and Courier of Charleston, S.C., before he transferred. “You can tell he’s been around ball all his life. He’s just kind of a natural leader.”
Clemson now runs a fast-paced offense and Clemson is where Richt and Florida State began turning more and more to its fast-break offense with the Seminoles.
That was in 1992, when Charlie Ward threw four interceptions against a No. 15 Clemson team but led a late drive for a 24-20 victory.
“Every time we went into the shotgun and no huddle we made it our two-minute drill but then we said, ‘Lets’ start doing this all the time,’” said Richt, the Seminoles’ quarterbacks coach at the time and later their offensive coordinator. “By the end of that year, we knew by the end of that next season we wanted to make every play fastbreak.”
Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham went up against Clemson when he played at Virginia Tech from 1985-88, including a 20-14 win in Death Valley in 1986. Grantham, however, said he didn’t have much memory of the game.
“We won the game,” he said. “That’s all I remember. Danny Ford was the coach.”
Under Richt, Georgia beat Clemson in 2002 and 2003 in quite different fashions, winning 31-28 in Athens in the first meeting and 30-0 in Clemson a year later.
The Bulldogs got the ball rolling in the 2003 game with a 56-yard touchdown pass from David Greene to Fred Gibson.
“They had a corner by the name of [Justin] Miller that was a stud,” Greene said. “Fred had an unbelievable game, had a good game blocking that game, too. He came out on fire. We hit him on a post pattern.”
“I remember it like it was yesterday, man,” Gibson said. “Those were some great times.”
The next chapter against Clemson comes Saturday.