CLEMSON, S.C., OCT. 10 -- Had this been a schoolyard football game -- everyone line up and go deep, three completions for a first down -- perhaps Virginia could have beaten eighth-ranked Clemson today. But once the big boys on the line were figured in, the Cavaliers just couldn't match up.
Tiger Coach Danny Ford readily admits his offense has weaknesses: the inconsistency of quarterback Rodney Williams, the lack of a game-breaker at wide receiver, the inexperience of tailback tandem Terry Allen and Wesley McFadden. But he's quick to point out that most of these flaws are covered up when the offensive line can dominate as thoroughly as it did today.
"This is the best set of blockers we've had since I've been here," Ford said, "and this is the best they've played this year by far."
Indeed, the holes were mammoth for Allen (27 carries, 183 yards) and McFadden (18 for 119). They ran for the bulk of Clemson's 331 yards from the tailback position, the second-highest total in Tiger history. "There was plenty of daylight to run to," Allen said. "I got to pick my hole."
Until this week, that wasn't Allen's decision to make. In the Tigers' first four games, Ford kept a stifling grip on his young tailbacks and any improvisation was a transgression worthy of benching.
This week, Ford loosened the chains, and the nation's 13th-ranked rushing attack, coming in, became even more devastating.
"They were overcoaching a little bit," said all-America guard John Phillips. "Today, they just turned them loose and you saw what happened. It's just a matter of the backs getting some experience. Terry Allen was seeing the hole and hitting it before I even got a chance to set the spring block."
Phillips isn't accustomed to not getting a chance to block. The 6-foot-5, 260-pound senior has single-handedly brought knockdown blocks to the statistics sheet. Last year, he recorded 100 knockdowns, and set the single-game Tigers record earlier this year with 18 against Virginia Tech.
"He's certainly the best I've faced," said Cavaliers defensive tackle Chris Stearns.
"Our offensive line won the game for us," Ford said.
"Defensively was another matter. We had no rush and we didn't come off the ball particularly well against the run."
Coming in, the Tigers' defensive line was even more heralded than its offensive counterpart. The Tigers entered the game rated second in the nation in total defense, surrendering only 159.5 yards per outing.
Virginia's young offensive line had been dubbed the team's "No. 1 problem area" in preseason by Coach George Welsh. But the Cavaliers moved the ball effectively (312 yards total offense) by holding their own on the line of scrimmage. Virginia quarterback Scott Secules wasn't sacked all afternoon, and Clemson's much-celebrated defensive end Michael Dean Perry, whom Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer called "the best football player I've ever seen" earlier this year, got close to Secules just once.
"We knew we could play with them" Virginia guard Roy Brown said. "Their defense is the best we'll face, but we thought we could handle them. The key was Perry. He's so powerful and quick, he can disrupt your whole offense. A lot of our game plan was built around just getting him blocked."
That aspect of the strategy worked. Perry had just five tackles and was constantly frustrated by double- and triple-teaming. "I see it every week, but it usually doesn't bother me," Perry said.
"I'll get my hits, anyway. But Virginia did a real good job with it. I never got going at all. At least we won. That's all the bowl scouts care about."
Virginia State 26, Elizabeth City State 20:
In Ettrick, Va., Danny Boynton rushed 14 times for 124 yards and a touchdown as Virginia State ran up a 26-0 lead and held on for the CIAA football victory.
The Trojans improved to 4-1-1 overall and 4-0 in the conference while the Vikings slipped to 1-5, 0-3.
Boynton, DeVal Bullock, Rudy Elliott and Darryl McShay all scored for the Trojans, who took a 26-6 lead into intermission.
Virginia State maintained that advantage until the fourth period, when the Vikings scored twice, pulling within 26-20 on Bill Wilde's 29-yard scoring pass to Ray Epps with 4:12 remaining. The Vikings had one more possession but could not get into Virginia State territory.
Wilde, who completed 19 of 41 passes for 237 yards, also connected with Richard Kershaw on a 19-yard scoring aerial. The Vikings' other score came on Lee Macon's 42-yard fumble return.