CHARLOTTESVILLE, OCT. 10 -- Virginia squandered a 28-point lead to a Clemson football team that staged the greatest comeback in the school's history today, prevailing, 29-28, on Nelson Welch's 32-yard field goal with 55 seconds left in a game that will not be soon forgotten by either side or the stunned crowd of 44,400 at Scott Stadium.

Led by reserve redshirt freshman quarterback Louis Solomon, Clemson shredded 10th-ranked Virginia's proud defense with flim-flam option heroics and heavy-duty inside running by a bevy of burly backs, handing the Cavaliers their first loss of the season.

The improbable victory was not decided until Virginia quarterback Bobby Goodman's 40-yard desperation pass into the end zone was knocked down as the final gun sounded. Seconds later, the Clemson marching band struck up a spirited rendition of "Hold That Tiger," something the Cavaliers failed to do after rocketing to a 28-0 lead on four Goodman touchdown passes in the game's first 26 minutes.

So Clemson has added another chapter to its domination of Virginia, and just when the Cavaliers were about to turn the tide in the series. After losing 29 straight to the Tigers, Virginia won two years ago and the teams tied last season in Death Valley.

No. 25 Clemson (3-2, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) rallied past Virginia (5-1, 4-1) by rolling up 288 yards on the ground in the second half -- 402 for the game -- against a rushing defense that came in ranked 11th in the country, yielding 95 yards a game.

Clemson's defense shut down a potent Virginia attack in the last two quarters, and knocked tailback Terry Kirby, Virginia's Heisman hopeful, out of the game with about 10 minutes to play with a left shoulder injury. Team physician Frank McCue said he thought Kirby had a muscle injury or pinched nerve that left his arm numb, but he ruled out a dislocation or shoulder separation, far more serious.

Kirby, who gained 132 yards rushing but only 42 in the second half, was scheduled for examination and precautionary X-rays tonight. McCue said he did not believe the injury was serious enough to keep Kirby out an extended period of time. McCue also said Kirby "was talking kinda silly" when he first came to the sideline, indicating he probably banged his head on his final carry, a 10-yard gain, but regained his senses by the end of the game.

The same could not be said for a Virginia team that came out flat in the second half and seemed thoroughly dazed by the end.

"You just can't play a half," Virginia Coach George Welsh said. "The game's never over, no matter what the score. They have a lot of pride, and they're not going to fold up."

That was precisely the message Clemson Coach Ken Hatfield had for his team at halftime. "We told them that the first half was theirs," Hatfield said, "and that the second half was going to be ours. ... All we wanted to do was play our hearts out."

That's precisely what Solomon did when he replaced starter Richard Moncrief on Clemson's second series after the half. Though he failed to move the tail-tied Tigers on his first two series and lost a fumble on a center exchange that led to Virginia's final touchdown, Hatfield stayed with him.

His patience was rewarded when Solomon, on second and six from his 36, rolled right after faking a handoff up the middle. As he turned the corner, Solomon faked a pitchout to a trailing back and, when Virginia defenders bit, he wooshed through a gaping hole and outran four pursuers for a 64-yard touchdown Hatfield said "ignited our spark." It made the score 28-7 and was the second-longest touchdown run by a Clemson quarterback.

That spark turned into a raging inferno fueled by Solomon's option improvisations and the churning legs of tailback Rodney Blunt and 245-pound fullback Rudy Harris. Blunt gained 141 yards and had a 53-yard touchdown run and Harris picked up 96 yards with two scores.

His tackle-breaking, 27-yard touchdown run off left tackle with 5:31 left got Clemson to 28-26, though Virginia still had hope when 240-pound fullback Howard Hall was stopped short on an ill-advised two-point conversion attempt from the 8 after an illegal procedure call. Solomon gave Hall the ball up the middle and he was halted at the 4.

But Clemson continued to stymie Goodman on the next series. After moving to a first down at the Tigers 42, Goodman was aiming down the middle for Tyrone Davis on third and seven when safety Darnell Stephens intercepted and returned 10 yards to the Clemson 35 with 3:53 remaining.

Welsh said later he made the decision to throw in that situation, though offensive coordinator Tom O'Brien wanted to run the ball. If the run failed, a punt could have pinned Clemson deep in its territory. "It was my fault we threw it," Welsh said. "A punt would have put them back another 10, 15 yards."

It was Solomon's turn again. The big play on what would prove to be the winning drive was a 45-yard pass to flanker Larry Ryans, a step ahead of Virginia defender Mike Wardlaw, who made the tackle at the Cavaliers 9.

Though Clemson was called for holding on first down and pushed back to the 23, three straight running plays got the ball to the 15. Welch, who missed earlier from 37 yards and botched an extra point, booted the ball inside the left upright.

"I tried not to think about the pressure too much," Solomon said. "The coaches gave me the type of plays where it was easy to make decisions. I didn't have to think a whole lot."

Said Stephens, "When we were down {28-0}, we were thinking we're about to go 0-3 {in the ACC} and have to go home and listen to the fans talk all week. This was a pride factor for us. We had to go back and fight. Our attitude after the half was we can do to them what they just did to us. I'm just glad it all worked out."