Friday, December 13, 2002
No. 5 Clemson 34, N.C. State 27
CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson's Woody Dantzler barely outdueled North Carolina State's Philip Rivers as the No. 5 Tigers continued their best start in 13 years with a 34-27 victory Saturday.
Dantzler, who has emerged as one of the game's most dazzling players, rushed for two touchdowns and threw for another for the Tigers (6-0, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference).
But his growing Heisman Trophy campaign was nearly upstaged at Death Valley by Rivers, an 18-year-old freshman who has led North Carolina State (4-1, 1-1) to three comeback victories.
Rivers passed for 370 yards, including three long touchdowns throws. The last was a 63-yard pass to Koran Robinson with 12:07 left that brought the Wolfpack to 34-27.
With Dantzler struggling in the second half -- he's usually on the bench with the Tigers way ahead -- Clemson asked its defense to finish the job.
Rivers drove North Carolina State to Clemson's 18 with 3:28 to go. But on fourth-and-3, Rivers fade pass to Willie Wright at the end zone's front right corner was broken up by safety Charles Hafley.
The Tigers had one anxious moment in its final drive and Dantzler saved them. On third-and-4, Dantzler spun right for 8 yards and the clinching first down with 2:11 remaining.
Clemson ran out the clock to tie their best start since the 1987 team opened 6-0. The last time the Tigers won seven straight was their national championship season of 1981.
There were shades of national titles at Death Valley. The Sears Trophy given to college football's champion was on the sidelines. Representatives from the Sugar Bowl, one of the Bowl Championship Series' games, were on hand to watch.
It wasn't the picture-perfect performance on national TV that Dantzler would have liked to increase his Heisman profile. He threw two interceptions and his fumble led to Ken Passinghham's field goal as the Wolfpack began their comeback from a 20-7 first-half deficit.
But Dantzler finished with 103 yards rushing. He completed 18 of 30 passes for 220 yards.
Clemson's Travis Zachery had touchdown runs of 3 and 5 yards to tie Lester Brown's school record of 32 rushing TDs.
And it was all almost washed away by Rivers.
He opened the Wolfpack's first drive with an 81-yard TD pass to Ray Robinson. He threw a 52-yard scoring pass to Bryan Peterson to bring the Wolfpack to 27-20. His final touchdown pass to Koran Robinson left the Tigers sweating out a game for the first time all year.
Rivers, who leads the ACC in total offense ahead of Dantzler, was 21-of-48 for 370 yards.
|Travis Zachery was a factor in Clemson's 34-27 victory over N.C. State.|