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Clemson Football Ailing As Florida State Awaits

Clemson Football Ailing As Florida State Awaits

Nov. 1, 2000


CLEMSON, S.C. — Quarterback Woody Dantzler is hurting. Clemson’s pass defense is struggling.

Sounds like a bad time for the No. 10 Tigers to face No. 4 Florida State.

“I don’t know,” said Dantzler, who reinjured his ankle in Saturday’s 31-28 loss to Georgia Tech.

“We don’t like to lose and that left a very nasty taste in our mouths. We’re going to keep that in our minds that we don’t want to experience it again,” said Dantzler, who wasn’t sure Monday when he would be able to practice this week.

Dantzler ran for a touchdown and threw for another in the first eight minutes against Georgia Tech. But a first-quarter hit to his left ankle ended his effectiveness. He left at halftime with 22 yards rushing.

Dantzler, who led the Tigers (8-1, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) to their best start since 1981 and rekindled memories of that national championship squad.

Without him they might not be able to withstand Florida State’s high-powered offense – more than 60 yards a game better than Clemson at 535 – or top-tier defense that’s given up only 274 yards per game.

“Of course, I’m concerned,” Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said. “Just like I was concerned last week. He’s going to be hit a lot and we’re going to have to see if he can take a significant hit.”

Dantzler’s backup, freshman Willie Simmons, rallied Clemson to a 38-24 win at North Carolina on Oct. 22 after the Tar Heels took a 17-0 lead. In the second half against Georgia Tech he was 9 of 18 for 131 yards with a touchdown, a sack and an interception.

Clemson linebacker Keith Adams said the team has confidence in Simmons if Dantzler can’t play.

“They are two different quarterbacks with different styles,” Adams said. “What’s good is they both demand to be a leader when they’re in there. We just blessed to have two quarterbacks who can do what they can do.”

What Clemson can’t seem to do is stop passes. The past month has been a go-long nightmare for Tigers defenders.

They allowed three long TDs in a 34-27 victory over North Carolina State on Oct. 7, were hit for big passes as North Carolina opened its 17-point lead two weeks later and were stung for a 16-yard touchdown pass to Kerry Watkins with seven seconds left in the loss to Geogia Tech.

“We just have to try and execute better,” said Adams, whose team allowed Tech quarterback George Godsey to have 454 yards passing. “We’ve played against some good receivers and good quarterbacks. You can’t point one finger at anybody, the whole team takes the blame.”

Bowden tried to put the best face on what has been a remarkable season, but now faces a very tough end at No. 4 Florida State, against No. 22 South Carolina and against a difficult bowl opponent.

“Some of our weaknesses have become exposed through the course of seven, eight games,” said Bowden, who will face his father, Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, for the second time. “Hopefully, the players can see there’s work to do and a bunch of it.”