You can't say Virginia didn't have its chances Saturday afternoon. Clemson began the day with a bonehead mistake that turned into seven Cavalier points and turned the ball over four times on a surprisingly sunny day.
But when you have a guy like Woody Dantzler, sometimes you can get away with that.
Dantzler, the Tigers' electrifying quarterback, rushed for a career-high 220 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-10 pounding of Virginia.
After trailing 10-3 going into the second quarter, Clemson scored 28 unanswered points behind Dantzler's nimble legs and a swarming defense.
In addition to setting what is believed to be an ACC rushing record for a quarterback, Dantzler threw for 154 yards and accounted for three touchdowns. He rushed for 132 of his yards in the third quarter, most of that coming on touchdown runs of 75 and 45 as the 11th-ranked Tigers (4-0, 2-0) turned a seven-point halftime advantage into a breather before a Scott Stadium- record crowd of 60,695.
"We thought we had enough people around the ball where we could stop him when he ran it," Cavalier coach George Welsh said. "I don't know if we missed tackles or what happened. Once he hit the secondary, though, I knew we were in trouble."
Were they ever. Virginia (2-2, 1-1) did a decent job of containing Dantzler, the conference's leading rusher at 124 yards per game, for about 15 minutes. And with the help of some bad judgment on the part of Tiger punt return man Travis Zachery, who tried to field a punt inside his 5-yard line but fumbled it away, the Cavaliers took a 7-0 lead 41/2 minutes into the game.
But for Virginia, the beginning of the end came on the ninth play of the second quarter. With the Cavaliers leading 10-7, Clemson's Joe Don Reames returned a punt 69 yards for a touchdown to tie the game. "I thought that was the key," Tiger coach Tommy Bowden said. "No doubt about it."
Virginia only trailed 17-10 at halftime, but any positive thoughts it took into the third quarter quickly faded. On Clemson's second offensive play, Dantzler took the shotgun snap and went right up the middle - and kept going for a 75-yard touchdown. Nobody laid a hand on him until Cavalier safety Shernard Newby dove and swiped his foot from behind at the 15-yard line.
Almost nine minutes later Dantzler did it again, this time from 45 yards. Other than Virginia linebacker Yubrenal Isabelle grazing him as he floated by, Dantzler was untouched. And just like that, Clemson led 31-10. Dantzler finished the third quarter with 204 rushing yards.
"The men up front were getting slants and angles," Dantzler said. "They were not only making blocks, they were sustaining blocks. All I had to do was run."
Dantzler personally finished with more total yards (374) than did Virginia (281). It was so stunning that the Cavaliers couldn't even admit the position he plays.
"He's not a quarterback at all," linebacker Donny Green said. "He's another running back back there."
"He's probably the best running back in the conference," cornerback Tim Spruill said.
Bowden allegedly said last year that Virginia "had no clue" how to defend the shotgun offense. The Cavaliers certainly looked clueless against Dantzler.
"I never expected to see that kind of stuff from a college offense," defensive end Ljubomir Stamenich said. "There are so many different things you have to worry about."
Offensively, the Cavaliers didn't come close to keeping pace. Tailback Antwoine Womack had some nice runs but could manage only 30 yards after halftime. Quarterback Dan Ellis had by far his worst day of the season, completing only 17-of-37 for 170 yards.
Although he missed several open receivers, there were also plenty of dropped balls. And although Virginia had just four penalties, two were holds that set up second- and-long situations and another was an illegal block that wiped out a long kickoff return.
"That's the thing that makes it so frustrating," Ellis said. "Every time we were down there, when we should have put it in the end zone, we didn't. Mistake