Oct. 1, 2001
By PAUL NEWBERRY AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) – Things didn’t start out too well for Woody Dantzler.
The Clemson quarterback fumbled on his third play of the game, and Georgia Tech recovered and went on to kick a field goal.
On the sideline, coach Tommy Bowden hinted that a change was coming if Dantzler made another mistake.
“I could have folded then,” the senior said after Saturday’s game. “But I fought through it. I knew I had to be there for my team.”
Playing as if his job depended on it, Dantzler was simply dazzling the rest of the way. He ran for 164 yards and two touchdowns, passed for 254 yards and two more scores and single-handedly carried the Tigers to a 47-44 overtime victory over then-No. 9 Georgia Tech.
“This is my fifth year, and hadn’t beaten Georgia Tech yet,” Dantzler said. “I feel so good right now that I can’t even describe it.”
Yellow Jackets had won four straight over Clemson – each by a mere three points. A year ago, Georgia Tech pulled off a 31-28 upset when George Godsey threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Kerry Watkins with seven seconds remaining.
This time, it was Dantzler who stunned the Yellow Jackets, with three plays standing out above all the others:
-The first half ended with the quarterback scrambling for a 38-yard touchdown, crossing the goal line just as the clock ran out. “That was a big momentum shift,” running back Travis Zachery said. “It’s good to have a quarterback who can do that.”
-Facing fourth-and-13 at his own 37 with about two minutes left in regulation, Dantzler spotted J.J. McKelvey behind the secondary and connected on a 63-yard touchdown.
-After Luke Manget put Georgia Tech ahead in overtime with a field goal, Dantzler ended the game with a call that worked all day – the quarterback draw. He took one step back, then meandered up the middle without being touched for an 11-yard TD.
“Strange, but we knew it was coming,” said Tech middle linebacker Matthew Etheridge, who took over when Daryl Smith went out with an elbow injury. “Just give them credit for executing.”
Blame the Yellow Jackets for getting burned time and again by the same play. Everyone at Bobby Dodd Stadium knew Dantzler would be running at the end, yet no Tech player even got a hand on him.
“So many times, I was right there,” defensive end Nick Rogers said. “It was just him making a play. He’s a great, great athlete.”
Dantzler’s performance helped Clemson (3-1, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) return to The Associated Press Top 25 after a one-week hiatus. The Tigers, rebounding from a home loss to Virginia, jumped back in at No. 19.
Georgia Tech (3-1, 0-1) tumbled from ninth to 17th, its hopes of sneaking into the national championship race now a moot point.
The Yellow Jackets are still in contention for the ACC title – along with just about everyone else in a season where the standings have been turned upside down.
Maryland and Virginia are tied for first, while each of the three expected powerhouses – Florida State, Clemson and Tech – has an early loss.
“The only thing that is different for us is that now we can’t have an unbeaten season,” said Yellow Jackets running back Joe Burns, who rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns. “We can still have a great year.”
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