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By JEFFREY COLLINSAssociated Press Writer
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) – Clemson coach Tommy Bowden was pleased with his team’s first game. His quarterback wasn’t as happy.
“I’m frustrated because there are plenty of times I could have made a play and broke this thing open and didn’t do it,” Woody Dantzler said.
Dantzler’s harsh assessment of his play came after he went 15-of-25 for 152 yards and ran 18 times for 46 yards as No. 19 Clemson beat Central Florida 21-13 on Saturday.
Dantzler’s teammates would only account for 92 yards as Clemson’s offense sputtered.
Bowden was concerned his team only got two first downs after taking a 21-7 lead with 10:36 left in the third quarter. But after watching fellow top 25 teams Nebraska and Georgia Tech struggle in their openers, Bowden called Saturday’s performance “about par for the course.”
“We’ve got 10 games to improve,” Bowden said. “I hope we do improve.”
UCF’s Ryan Schneider completed 29 of 48 passes for 297 yards, but the Knights had just 35 yards rushing and scored only twice in seven drives into Clemson territory.
Schneider’s numbers would have been even better, but his receivers dropped several passes.
“That’s been going on most of the summer. We just have to get better,” Knights coach Mike Kruczek said. “When you throw the ball as much as we do, you have to come up with those kind of catches.”
Clemson used its no-huddle offense to score its first touchdown, nifty running by Dantzler for its second score and a fake field goal for the third touchdown. In between, the Tigers struggled to find an offensive rhythm, depending on Dantzler to make a play when it counted.
The Tigers put several freshmen on the field on offense, including two-sport star Roscoe Crosby, who caught three passes for 64 yards including a 12-yard pass to start the game.
Bowden said he promised Crosby when he recruited him that he would get the ball on his first play as a Tiger. The Kansas City Royals had offered Crosby $2 million if he played baseball exclusively, but he decided he wanted to play college football, too.
The Tiger faithful had some uneasy moments as UCF cut Clemson’s lead to 21-13 with 8:09 left on a sneak by Schneider. But Javier Beorlegui missed the extra point. He also missed a 38-yard field-goal attempt in the second quarter.
Central Florida had a first down at the Clemson 30 with about four minutes left, but a sack and poorly executed screen pass forced them to punt.
Dantzler would then clinch the game with a 7-yard first down run on third-and-6.
On a muggy and sometimes rainy afternoon, Clemson started the game without a huddle, keeping the Knights on their heels during a nine-play, 55-yard touchdown drive that took only 2:56. Running back Travis Zachery’s 5-yard touchdown catch made it 7-0.
The teams would trade punts before Central Florida went on a 15-play, 81-yard drive capped by a touchdown run of 7 yards by Alex Haynes to tie it at 7.
Dantzler would put the Tigers ahead 14-7 on a 16-yard run. Bowden said it was an option play and Dantzler made a great decision not to pitch when the linebacker stepped into the play. One spin, and Dantzler ran in the end zone untouched.
Jeff Scott’s 22-yard run on a fake field goal put Clemson ahead 21-7. Scott ran for first downs both times he ran fake field goals last year.
“We’d seen it in the past and we had it in the back of our minds that they might play it,” Kruczek said.
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