CHARLOTTESVILLE, SEPT. 8 -- This was Jason Wallace's redemption, Shawn Moore's Heisman coming-out party, Clemson's Waterloo and the University of Virginia's long-awaited, Game-of-the-Century kind of revenge.
Virginia, 14th-ranked but ever-humbled in the face of a 0-29 black mark against the Tigers, knocked off ninth-ranked Clemson, 20-7, in front of a record 46,800 today at Scott Stadium. And The Streak, the longest of its kind in Division I history, is history.
Not only did Virginia (2-0, 1-0 in the ACC) take care of historical horror, but beating the preseason conference favorites leaves the Cavaliers a reasonably good shot at an undefeated regular season.
"None of us were oh-and-29," Wallace said. He was the cornerback who took the blame in 1988 when communications from the coaching box to the sideline to the huddle broke down, and wide receiver Chip Davis was left all alone to catch a 14-yard touchdown pass with 1:52 left, giving the Tigers a 10-7 victory and a 27th straight win in the series.
Tonight his 79-yard punt return in the third quarter shifted momentum forevermore to the Cavaliers, who then scored their insurance touchdown on an eight-yard pass from Shawn Moore to Herman Moore.
"Most of us were oh-and-two" against Clemson, Wallace said. "But everyone lumped us in with all the past teams of the '60s and '70s, and we had nothing to do with it. We played them hard and came very close the last two years. We had that confidence coming into this year. We knew this was going to be it."
"It was a long buildup," said Coach George Welsh. "This has been going on since the summer. The team worked awfully hard. They made a great effort today I think the one difference today was we kept pressure on them. We played hard the whole game."
Virginia held Clemson (1-1, 0-1 ACC) to 65 yards rushing in the second half. Left end Chris Slade wreaked havoc with 10 tackles and two sacks, including the hard hit on quarterback DeChane Cameron that caused a fumble late in the second half and led to the Cavaliers' second field goal.
"This is what we've been practicing for," Slade said. "This is it . . . like Christmastime."
Shawn Moore was just good enough (13 of 28, 145 yards). He didn't throw an interception today, and hasn't in his last 113 regular season attempts, a school record.
"It was a C-minus," Moore said of his performance. "Coach said it was a sloppy game, but we executed when we had to. . . . We knew it was going to be an emotional game, so the key was to keep everyone into the game."
The Cavaliers gained 213 yards on the ground against a team that held Long Beach State to minus 16 yards rushing last week. Granted, the opponent was Long Beach State, but Clemson's defense is still not used to getting thumped as they were in the second half today.
"It was hard to get a handle on what was the best play to run," Clemson Coach Ken Hatfield said. "The only play that worked early was the trap. We couldn't make anything happen inside. We got outside a couple of times but that was it."
Down by 7-6 at the half, Virginia went 80 yards in 12 plays to open the third quarter. The key was a 23-yard reverse by wide receiver Terrence Tomlin, who took the ball well inside Clemson territory. Virginia converted a big third and eight when Shawn Moore scrambled to the 4; two plays later, Terry Kirby (18 carries, 59 yards) crashed in for the score to put the Cavaliers ahead for good.
On Clemson's next possession, the Tigers picked up a safety blitz on third down and flanker Doug Thomas broke open near midfield. But he dropped Cameron's perfect pass and Clemson had to punt.
It was unfortunate for the Tigers, because Wallace took Chris Gardocki's punt at the 13, got sprung by a crunching block at the 15 and sailed up the left sideline. He might have been tackled around the Clemson 40, but Tyrone Lewis pancaked Gardocki into the turf and Wallace was able to go all the way to the Clemson 8 before being ridden out of bounds.
"It was blocked perfectly," Wallace said. "I got a great kickout block on the contain man. All I had to do was dip inside and dip back outside, and the wall was set up perfectly."
On second and goal, Shawn Moore found Herman Moore in single coverage and tossed up an alley-oop. The 6-foot-5 wideout had a big advantage over 5-11 cornerback Jerome Henderson, and came down with the ball for the score with 8:25 left in the third.
From there, Clemson's young wide receivers and quarterback were mainly powerless against the Cavaliers' experienced secondary. The Tigers reached the Virginia 34 early in the fourth quarter; if they had scored, they might have been able to power up their running game again.
But the Tigers gained just one yard from there, and worse yet, they burned all three of their timeouts. The rest of the game was just an anticipation for when the delirious (and at times just goofy) Virginia student body would storm the field and go at the goalposts.
No one seemed to care. For no one had seen the likes of it before.
"I've been thinking about this for so long," Wallace said. "We've heard about it all summer. We were disciplined enough to stick to our game plan and concentrate just on Kansas last week. And then we were able to just let everything go. We didn't win this game tonight; we won it on the practice field Tuesday and Wednesday."