A 26-24 win over then-No. 19 Clemson (2-1, 0-1 ACC) had Grohanswering questions about if his Cavaliers could win the ACC title."We're in the hunt," he said. "It's a long hunt, but we're init."
The win put Groh's Cavaliers (2-1, 1-0) and fellow first-yearcoach Ralph Friedgen on top of the ACC. Meanwhile, the Bowdens arelooking up after both got stunned on Saturday. Bobby Bowden made noexcuses after Florida State lost to North Carolina 41-9 and droppedto No. 18 from No. 6 in The Associated Press poll of the top 25college teams.
And son Tommy Bowden, whose Tigers dropped out of The AP pollfor the first time since the end of the 1999 season, told fans itisn't time to panic.
"It's three games into the season," Tommy Bowden said. "We'restill a work in progress."
Virginia needed some late-game heroics. Bryson Spinner rushedhis team to the line of scrimmage at the 1 as the final secondsticked off. Wide receiver Billy McMullen darted right, beatingClemson cornerback Brian Mance for the game-winning score with onesecond left. Virginia's game-winning drive covered 44 yards in1:43. The Cavaliers had no timeouts.
The biggest play of the drive was a 17-yard halfback pass fromTyree Foreman to McMullen that got Virginia down to the Clemson 4.Tiger defensive coordinator Reggie Herring praised theunconventional play call.
"Don't you think a halfback pass at that time of the game wouldfool anyone?" Herring asked. "That was a real courageous call."
Spinner, who started but shared quarterbacking duties withfellow sophomore Matt Schaub, went 15-for-25 for 186 yards,throwing for two touchdowns and running for another score. McMullencaught eight passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns.
It was a second half full of momentum swings. Two quick Virginiatouchdowns put Clemson down 20-10 seven minutes into the thirdquarter. But with 12:36 left in the game, Clemson retook the lead24-20 on a 2-yard touchdown run by Travis Zachery.
Dantzler went 25-for-34 for 251 yards and ran for 67 yards, buthad two interceptions and one fumble. The fumble was especiallycostly, coming with less than five minutes left as Clemson drove toput the game away.
"I carry all the responsibility," Dantzler said. "If I hadn'tfumbled the ball, they wouldn't have gotten it back."
On the game-winning play, Mance begged for a flag, sayingMcMullen pushed off. But the official turned away and signaled thetouchdown.
McMullen said he didn't push off. Groh shrugged off the noncall."There's contact on a lot of plays. This is a contact game," hesaid.
Clemson outgained Virginia 431-387 and, even with the Tigers'no-huddle offense running most of the game, held the ball 10minutes longer than the Cavaliers. But once again, last minutemagic did the Tigers in. Bowden has lost four games at Death Valleyin three years, all by three points or less. The last two losses -Saturday's defeat by Virginia and a 31-28 loss to Georgia Tech in2000 - came in the final moments.
Virginia plays Duke next week at home, before traveling toMaryland on Oct. 6 for what will likely be a showdown for the ACClead.
Clemson plays at No. 9 Georgia Tech next week, and a loss wouldlikely knock them out of contention for an ACC title.
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