UVA: White Meat No Longer

by - Correspondent -
Former Clemson coach Frank Howard
never lost to the team he called
'White Meat.'

Former Clemson coach Frank Howard called Virginia "White Meat."

Of course, Howard had barbs for every opponent, and at times even his own team. Once after a loss he opened the lockeroom door and told the press that were waiting to talk to the team, "Gentlemen, you may claim the body."

Howard didn't say that after a Virginia game.

For 29 straight games Clemson defeated Virginia. There was a time when it seemed Clemson would always defeat Virginia.

Clemson trailed by two touchdowns against Virginia in the fourth quarter in 1980 and came back to win on a 53-yard field goal by Obed Ariri. In 1988, the Cavaliers left wide receiver Chip Davis uncovered near the left sideline. Rodney Williams found Davis for the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter in a 10-7 Clemson win.

"They were better than us," said Virginia coach George Welsh, who suffered through the final eight years of the Clemson winning streak. "Other than 1985 when they had a controversial touchdown, that wasn't a touchdown, they were better than us. We played them close a couple of times, but they were better than us."

That changed in 1990. In Welsh's ninth year at Virginia, the Cavaliers defeated Clemson 20-7 at Scott Stadium. The fans stormed the field and tore down the goal posts on a rainy night in Charlottesville.

Now, there's a generation that can barely remember the streak. Virginia, which visits Clemson at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, has a 5-3-1 advantage over the Tigers since 1990.

"I'm not real familiar with it," said Clemson coach Tommy Bowden of the 29-game winning streak. "In the 1980's I was in the league (as an assistant at Duke) and Virginia wasn't that good. Since I've been gone they've reversed.

"I know they didn't go to bowl games. Now they go to a bunch of them."

Bowden points to the hiring of Welsh as the turning point.

"When they hired George Welsh, the administration made a commitment to be good in football," he said. "The commitment has to be from the president more so that the athletic director. I don't know who the president was, but they made a commitment when they hired George Welsh. They look different on film now than they did in the 80's."

Welsh has won over sixty percent of his games at Virginia, a school known more for its band than its football team until the late 80's. Since 1987, Virginia has won seven games or more every season.

Welsh said there's one thing that made a difference: speed. "If you want to be a top-ten or top-fifteen team, you have to have a lot of speed," he said. "Your whole football team has to have speed. We all know you need speed, but it's becoming more important. The football games used to be played between the tackles, but now it's more sideline to sideline and goal line to goal line."

This year, Virginia relies on running back Thomas Jones, who rushed the ball 35 times for 149 yards in a 20-17 win over North Carolina last Saturday.

"He really does a lot of everything," said Clemson linebacker Chad Carson. "He likes to cut the ball back. He uses his cuts to find the holes. He's really disciplined. It's hard to stop a back like that."

It's also hard to call Virginia white meat anymore.

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