Clemson football coach Charley Pell stood in the middle of the locker room with his arms folded and his head down, mumbling about mistakes.

Standing outside his locker room, Virginia Coach Dick Bestwick explained that he was pleased with the progress his team was making.

Ironically, the scoreboard said Pell's Tigers had beaten Bestwick's Cavaliers, 30-14. For Virginia the closeness of that score represented some sort of a victory.

"We're beginning to get to the point where we can be competitive with good teams like Clemson," Bestwick said. "If none of our guys go (get hurt) the rest of the season, we'll continue to get better."

How competitive the 1-5 Cavaliers would have been had 4-1 Clemson not been called for 112 yards in penalties, many of them at potentially crucial moments, is a question Bestwick did not try to answer.

"We should've won 50-0," Tiger back Warren Ratchford lamented. "We messed up all day long."

Clemson looked very much like a team capable of scoring 50 points for much of the afternoon. While most in the crowd of 19,243 still were cheering the outstanding UVA pep band, tailback Lester Brown, who finished the game with 178 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries, ripped 59 yards for a touchdown on the Tigers' first play from scrimmage.

It looked like a long day for Clemson's Tiger mascot, which does a pushup for each point the Tiger score.

"I was thinkin' about a touchdown every time I got it today," Brown said. "I knew all year I could take it and go a long way. Today I finally did it."

But while the Tigers were envisioning a romp, they got a bit starry-eyed and began making mistakes. Twice on Virginia's next series they committed penalties after stopping the Cavs on third down.

That, combined with some nifty running by Virginia's Grey Taylor, led to a one-yard dive for a touchdown by Tommy Vigorito with 7:43 left in the first quarter, culminating a 77-yard drive.

"Was I surprised by the mistakes?" Pell asked rhetorically. "After the first five minutes, I was beyond surprise. Look, we had more folks in the stands for our pep rally last week so we were due for a letdown. That doesn't mean we should've made those mistakes, but . . ." he stopped and shrugged.

The 7-7 score didn't last long, even thoug a 60-yard Steve Fuller-to-Jerry Butler touchdown pass was called back on Clemson's next series by an offside penalty.

Vigorito fumble on the last play of the first quarter proved to be the start of a second-quarter Clemson barrage. Fuller, the 1977 ACC player of the year, led his team on drives of 32 yards (Brown scoring from 15 yards) and 56 yards (Fuller scoring himself) to go with a 37-yard Obed Ariri field goal, which made the halftime score 23-7.

The only reason it was that close was an Ariri miss and a Tiger drive that died on the two as time ran out.

"We gave them too much," Bestwick said. "We gave the first touchdown by missing tackles and we gave them another with the fumble.

The Tigers continued to roll up and down the field in the second half - they finished with 419 yards rushing and 550 yards total - but scored only once, on a Fuller one-yard dive. The Cavs made it respectable when third-string quarterback Todd Kirtley, a freshman, drove the club 70 yards against Clemson subs, passing six yards to Tim Moon for a score.

"We're getting there," UVA starting quarterback Mickey Spady insisted. "We're a little better every week."

"Shoulda been 50-0," Ratchford kept repeating. The fact that it wasn't made most UVA people more like winners than losers.