Clemson's QB Runs Into Heisman Race

Monday, September 25th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

The quarterback dances in the backfield, receivers streaking down the sidelines and across the middle, and looks for a target.

Then he sees it, a hole off the left side of the line. And Woodrow Dantzler is off and running, taking unbeaten Clemson's hopes with him.

He also has put himself in the running for the Heisman Trophy. He gained 220 yards on 18 carries Saturday, breaking Virginia's back with third-quarter scoring runs of 75 and 45 yards.

``He's a single-wing tailback now,'' Virginia coach George Welsh said after the Tigers (4-0) beat the Cavaliers 31-10, jumping to No. 7 in the AP poll. ``That offense helps him because they've tailored things for him.''

But Dantzler can do more than run. Earlier, he stood in the pocket and found Jackie Robinson for a game-tying 30-yard touchdown.

Dantzler is now the fourth-rated passer in Division I-A, with 52 completions in 79 attempts for 691 yards and seven touchdowns. His only interception came on a tipped pass. He even caught a pass, too.

Among runners, he was 12th in the country with an average of 123.8 yards, 40 more than his nearest competitor for the ACC rushing lead.

``He's probably the best running back we have in the conference,'' Virginia defensive back Tim Spruill said after Dantzler's 374-yard day.

The game at Virginia was seen as the first real test for the Tigers, who had romped three weak teams to start the season.

Dantzler politely declines to talk about himself as a Heisman contender.

``I'm just a guy on a team doing a job,'' he said.

Coach Tommy Bowden also passed on a chance to hype his quarterback. But he made it clear he thinks it's time Dantzler was noticed.

``Somebody needs to start paying attention to what is being done because ... this guy is performing at a higher level,'' Bowden said.

Dantzler certainly made a believer of Welsh, who said he'd told his team all week to stop the Tigers' running game, especially Dantzler.

``We thought we had enough people around the ball to stop him,'' Welsh said. ``I don't know if we missed tackles or what happened, but once he hit the secondary, I knew we were in trouble.''

Dantzler also had a 21-yard run. Another time he ran behind the line dodging tacklers, scrambling to the line of scrimmage near the sideline before hitting Matt Bailey for 12 yards.

Later, he threw a pass that was batted by a linemen. He regrouped quickly enough to catch it on the rebound for a 3-yard gain.

``When he's clicking, there's really nothing you can do,'' Clemson linebacker Keith Adams said. ``You can't stop him. You can just try to contain him. God has blessed him with a lot of talent, and he's using it.''

And Dantzler is having too much fun to bask in his achievements.

``I don't really sit back and think about `What can I do? What have I done?' or `What am I doing?''' the junior said. ``I'm just going out there and just focusing on that one play. I take it one play at a time.''

Wide receiver Joe Don Reames said Dantzler's ability to throw, combined with the threat to run, makes it hard for a defense to anticipate.

``So they have to prepare for everything,'' he said.

And even then, it sometimes isn't enough.