October 3, 1998
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina’s offense scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns a minute apart and the defense came up with two late stands to escape with a 21-14 victory over reeling Clemson on Saturday.
The Tar Heels (1-3, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) avoided their first four-game losing streak since 1989, while the Tigers (1-4, 0-3) are off to their worst start in 23 years.
Clemson’s decision to start quarterback Woodrow Dantzler over Brandon Streeter ended up backfiring on coach Tommy West as his freshman was sacked six times and fumbled deep in his own territory with the game on the line.
North Carolina tied the score at 14 with 11:08 left on a 4-yard run by Rufus Brown. A hobbled Oscar Davenport setting up the TD with pass completions of 25, 8 and 19 yards.
Dantzler then fumbled two plays later on an inside keeper, North Carolina defensive back Steve Fisher recovering at the 12. Davenport found a wide open Deon Dyer six seconds later as the Tar Heels took the lead.
Streeter relieved Dantzler late in the fourth quarter and drove the Tigers to the North Carolina 2, completing passes of 28 and 24 yards, and getting an interference call against All-American defensive back Dre’ Bly.
But Bly and Jomo Legins helped bring down Travis Zachery on a fourth-down option pitch for a 3-yard loss and the Tar Heels defense – maligned after giving up 37 and 43 points against Stanford and Georgia Tech – held firm.
But it wasn’t over yet.
Streeter marched the Tigers deep into North Carolina territory again, but Legins forced Brian Wofford to fumble after a completion inside the 5, the ball rolling through several players’ hands before out of the back of the end zone for a touchback with 1:29 left. The Tar Heels then ran out the clock.
The Tigers led 14-7 at halftime despite only 43 yards of offense, two first downs and no pass completions from Dantzler as the Clemson defense scored once and set up another score after falling behind 7-0.
Davenport started at quarterback for North Carolina for the first time since undergoing knee surgery following the season opener, but he left limping after just seven plays.
However, the senior was forced back into action when Ronald Curry pinched a nerve in his left shoulder running a QB draw late in the first period.
Davenport led the Tar Heels on a 50-yard scoring drive in his first series back, hooking up with Kory Bailey on a 20-yard slant pattern.
But it became apparent as the game progressed Davenport was unable to push off his left leg – and the Clemson defense took advantage.
Alex Ardley’s 26-yard interception return of a poorly underthrown Davenport pass tied the score at 7-7 10:46 before halftime.
Mistake-prone North Carolina turned it over again two series later after being pinned deep in its own territory by Clemson punter Kevin Laird. Rufus Brown’s fumble was recovered at the 14 by Adrian Dingle and three plays later Terry Witherspoon scored on a 1-yard plunge.
By DAVID DROSCHAK AP Sports Writer
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