Note: The following appears in the NC State football gameday program.
Editor’s Note – For each program in 2022, Tim Bourret chronicles a great individual performance in Clemson history. Today is the third installment.
Woodrow Dantzler was on quite a run over the first five games of the 2001 season. He was the talk of the country after a 418-yard performance at Georgia Tech in a 47-44 overtime win on national television on Sept. 29.
He followed that the next game with a 517-yard performance (184 rushing, 333 passing) at NC State in a 45-37 victory over Philip Rivers and the Wolfpack.
Dantzler set the Clemson total offense record with that performance against NC State, and it has been eclipsed twice, once by Tajh Boyd (529 vs. NC State in 2012) and once by Deshaun Watson (588 vs. Pittsburgh in 2016). But Dantzler’s accomplishment of rushing for at least 180 yards and passing for at least 330 yards in the same game still stands. It might stand forever.
To put his day in perspective, he was just 16 rushing yards short of being one of three players in FBS history to rush for 200 yards and pass for 300 yards in one game. Washington’s Marques Tuiasosopo had 206 rushing yards and 302 passing yards against Stanford in 1999. Last season, Louisville’s Malik Cunningham had 224 rushing yards and 303 passing yards in a victory at Duke.
Clemson wore purple pants for the first time, and it certainly put Dantzler and the Tiger offense in a good frame of mind from the beginning, as he scored on a 55-yard rush on the third offensive play, just 90 seconds into the game.
The play is still easy to remember for Will Merritt, Clemson starting offensive guard.
“I had one of those rare plays in my career that I did exactly what I was supposed to do. I pulled to the weak side and had a pancake block on a linebacker. I heard the Clemson crowd roar and thought that Woody had run behind me and the play had worked perfectly. I then looked up and saw him going down the opposite sideline for a touchdown.
“That summed up how the entire game went. No matter what play was called, Woody made it work. As an offensive lineman, Woody made you look good whether you were doing what you were supposed to do or not.”
Dantzler hit Derrick Hamilton for a 10-yard passing touchdown and Ben Hall for a seven-yard passing touchdown in the second quarter, but Clemson only led 21-17 at halftime.
The Tigers took command of the game in the third quarter, when Dantzler threw for two touchdowns and ran for another. He finished the game 23-27 passing for 333 yards and four touchdowns. The 85-percent completion mark is still the highest for a Tiger with at least 25 pass attempts. He added 23 carries for 184 yards and two touchdowns. He accounted for 517 of Clemson’s 567 yards of total offense and six touchdowns.
NC State Head Coach Chuck Amato summed it up best after the game when meeting with the assembled media.
“I can’t imagine there is a better player in America than Woody Dantzler. We must have set a record on missed tackles for him alone. He really put on a show today.”
After the game, Amato met Dantzler at midfield and told him, “You are the best player in the nation.”
Tommy Bowden, who guided the Tiger program from 1999 until mid-2008, still remembers the effort Dantzler displayed at NC State. In that game, Dantzler surpassed 2,000 career rushing yards and 4,000 career passing yards, the first player in ACC history to accomplish the feat.
“Woody had an unbelievable game that day,” said Bowden. “It seemed like everything we dialed up worked. They could not stop him. He made so many plays. Woody was the type of player who you felt if you could keep getting him at-bats, a home run was going to come. He hit some that day.”
Prior to the season, Offensive Coordinator Brad Scott stated that he thought Dantzler had a chance to become the first player in FBS history with 1,000 rushing yards and 2,000 passing yards in a season. He reached those numbers in the final regular-season game against Duke and ended with 1,061 rushing yards and 2,576 passing yards.