Simmons Leads Tigers Past Heels, 38-24
Willie Simmons led Clemson to 31 unanswered points.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Clemson quarterback Willie Simmons had been waiting for the chance he got Saturday night since he arrived at Clemson.
Simmons, a redshirt freshman who expected to be playing long before now, came in for an injured Woody Dantzler in the second quarter and threw four touchdown passes to lead No. 5 Clemson (8-0 overall, 6-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) to a 38-24 over North Carolina (3-4, 1-4).
"It's been my dream since I got here to come in and play in front of a national television audience," said Simmons.
The dream was complete with all the heroism any kid could dream up.
Dantzler sprained his ankle in the second quarter with Clemson trailing 17-0. Clemson appeared to be losing control of the game before Simmons led Clemson to 31 unanswered points.
Simmons showed few signs of nervousness while throwing the four touchdown passes. And none were particularly easy throws.
"They were playing a lot of press man," said offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez. "It put us in a position to win jump balls." It also gave Rod Gardner the opportunity he had been looking for all season. The 6-3 receiver caught six passes for 182 yards, both Clemson records.
"We should have been making the plays earlier," said Rodriguez.
Simmons completed a 26-yard pass to Jackie Robinson on fourth-and-15 at the Clemson 35 to set up a field goal that tied the game 17-17.
The Tigers took their first lead of the night on their next drive. From the Clemson 18, Travis Zachery ran for 39 yards on the first play of the drive. Three plays later Simmons completed a 17-yard pass to Kevin Youngblood to the UNC 38. After a false start by Clemson, Simmons completed a 43-yard touchdown pass to Rod Gardner. Simmons laid the ball perfectly over two UNC defensive backs into the arms of Gardner at the goal line. The play gave Clemson a 24-17 lead with 5:25 left in the third quarter.
Clemson scored again with 2:42 left in the game on a 1-yard run by Zachery. The score was set up by an interception by Keith Adams.
However, until Simmons came into the game it didn't look good for Clemson.
Clemson's offense ran just 10 plays in the first quarter and gained 48 yards. North Carolina's offense took advantage and scored on three of its first four possessions.
UNC's second drive took 13 plays and ended with a 26-yard field goal by Jeff Reed. On the first play of UNC's second drive Ronald Curry hit Jamal Jones with a 57-yard pass to the Clemson 24-yard line. Curry had a 20-yard run after he scrambled to the right side. A late hit by Charles Hafley added 15 more yards to the play, which ended at the Clemson 6.
Two plays later, Brandon Russell scored on a 2-yard dive to give UNC a 10-0 lead with 1:23 left in the first quarter.
On UNC's next drive, Curry completed a 57-yard pass to tight end Sam Aiken. On the next play, Curry on a 6-yard scramble to his left that gave UNC a 17-0 lead with 12:18 left in the first half.
North Carolina had outgained Clemson 234-48 after the score.
Dantzler sprained his left ankle on a 23-yard run midway through the second quarter. Simmons came into the game and Clemson didn't skip a beat.
On his fourth play, he completed a 29-yard pass to Jackie Robinson for Clemson's first touchdown with 5:42 left in the first quarter. Simmons threw to Robinson in the right corner of the end zone.
After North Carolina was stopped on its next drive and punted to Joe Don Reames, who returned the ball down the left sideline 51 yards to the UNC 31-yard line.
Simmons completed passes to Zachery and Gardner to move the ball to the 20. He then threw a timing pass to Gardner for a touchdown. Simmons threw the ball before Gardner hit the 15-yard line. Gardner caught it at the 2 near the right sideline and then ran into the end zone.
"We knew all week the North Carolina had a good team," said Simmons.
No one knew, however, exactly how good Simmons was. Until now.
1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH FINAL
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Clemson 0 14 10 14 38
North Carolina 10 7 0 7 24
UNC-FG Reed 26, 5:26
UNC-Russell 2 run (Reed kick), 1:23
UNC-Curry 6 run (Reed kick), 12:18
Clem-Robinson 29 pass from Simmons (Hunt kick), 5:42
Clem-Gardner 20 pass from Simmons (Hunt kick), 1:07
Clem-FG Hunt 22, 10:41
Clem-Gardner 43 pass from Simmons (Hunt kick), 5:25
Clem-Gardner 25 pass from Simmons (Hunt kick), 13:12
UNC-Saunders 1 run (Reed kick), 9:17
Clem-Zachery 1 run (Hunt kick), 2:42
First downs 19 22
Rushes-yards 45-112 38-89
Passing 296 314
Return Yards 112 13
Comp-Att-Int 14-25-0 18-34-2
Punts 8-35 5-39
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 2-1
Penalties-Yards 15-119 8-80
Time of Possession 30:14 29:46
RUSHING-Clemson, Zachery 24-89, Dantzler 8-22, Simmons 6-15,
Rambert 3-2, Gardner 1-(minus 7), team 3-(minus 9). NCarolina,
Russell 21-49, Curry 11-23, Saunders 4-15, Black 2-2.
PASSING-Clemson, Dantzler 4-7-0-68, Simmons 10-18-0-228.
NCarolina, Curry 18-34-2-314, Black 0-0-0-0.
RECEIVING-Clemson, Gardner 7-182, Robinson 4-76, Zachery 2-21,
Youngblood 1-17. NCarolina, Bailey 7-129, Allen 6-54, Aiken 2-54,
Jones 1-57, Crumpler 1-14, Russell 1-6.