Oct. 16, 2001
By PETE IACOBELLI AP Sports Writer
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) – Clemson’s Woodrow Dantzler saw his season and the Tigers championship hopes sinking. So he did what he always has done – took charge.
Dantzler gathered the offense together and, along with other Clemson seniors, told them they had to improve quickly to stay alive in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“We knew we had to take this thing seriously,” he said.
No one’s more serious about success the past few weeks than Dantzler.
The quarterback has accounted for 935 yards and 10 touchdowns to lead the 13th-ranked Tigers (5-1, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) to wins at Georgia Tech (47-44 OT) and North Carolina State (45-37). He’s also led his team back into the Atlantic Coast Conference title chase and himself back into Heisman Trophy contention.
“Yeah, I had a little hand” in the Tigers’ revamped attitude, Dantzler said. “All the seniors did. We decided we needed to come together.”
Clemson coach Tommy Bowden says he’s had standout players before, but Dantzler’s combination of head-shaking runs, on-target passing and leadership puts him at a higher level than he’s seen.
Good enough for college football’s highest honor? Absolutely, says Bowden.
“If you’ve ever seen Woody, he’s very humble. I’m happy to push him for anything,” the coach said. “He deflects the glory to God or team, and that’s a pretty good combination.”
Things didn’t start so well for Dantzler this season.
Dantzler and the Tigers’ fast-paced attack struggled in victories over Central Florida and Wofford, and flat-out fell on its face in a 26-24 home loss to Virginia.
He had temporarily lost the fans, who booed the Tigers at Death Valley against Wofford and Virginia. Bowden even threatened to sit Dantzler after a fumble early against Georgia Tech unless the turnovers (five in three games) stopped.
“Yeah, we weren’t playing up to our capabilities,” said Dantzler, a graduate student.
Instantly, Dantzler moved to a level few have seen in college football.
He rallied Clemson several times in the shootout with the Yellow Jackets, winning the game in overtime on an 11-yard quarterback draw for a touchdown.
As good as that performance was – Dantzler was named the ACC’s offensive back of the week – his mastery of North Carolina State was better, and earned him another ACC weekly honor.
“The man can run. He can pass. He has moves. He has speed. He can break tackles. There is nothing bad you can say about him,” Wolfpack linebacker Brian Jamison said.
Perhaps Dantzler’s most spectacular moment was a 41-yard scramble, where he looked trapped in the backfield after rolling to the right. Woodrow the Wizard reversed field, slipped through two defenders at the line of scrimmage, moved right past a third and raced toward the sideline.
In the fourth quarter, Dantzler showed his passing ability by hitting receiver Airese Currie in stride for 79 yards. The reception put Dantzler over 300 yards – he finished 23 of 27 for 333 yards – for the first time this year.
Dantzler has worked hard to make his arm as dangerous as his legs.
If Dantzler doesn’t feel he was as effective throwing at practice as he should have been, he’ll throw into a net until satisfied.
“I don’t want any part of my game to be a reason why we lost,” Dantzler said.
Dantzler doesn’t pay attention to his chances at the Heisman Trophy. Bowden thinks Dantzler’s play the past few weeks will speak loudly across the country.
And Dantzler knows there are more challenges to meet.
This week comes North Carolina, the first ACC team in 31 years to win four in row after opening 0-3. Florida State, ACC leader Maryland and South Carolina also are ahead.
But Dantzler says he’s feeling as comfortable as he ever has on the field, a dangerous thought for the Tigers’ opposing defensive coordinators.
“I’m still the same person, still the same player I’ve always been,” Dantzler said. “I just have a lot more knowledge about what to do out there.”
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