Virginia aims to keep Clemson down Tigers searching for first ACC win

October 10, 1992|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

CHARLOTTESVILLE,VA — CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The last time Virginia played here against Clemson, the goal posts were not the only things to come crashing to the ground. So did the Cavaliers' 29-game losing streak to the Tigers.

When these two Atlantic Coast Conference teams meet again this afternoon at Scott Stadium, neither can happen. The goal posts were better secured shortly after that game two years ago. And, given last season's 20-20 tie in Death Valley, neither team is on a streak.

But a lot can come crashing down.

Tenth-ranked Virginia (5-0, 4-0 in the ACC) is trying to stay atop the conference and, more importantly, keep its unbeaten season alive. More urgently, No. 25 Clemson (2-2, 0-2) needs a win to keep its season from unraveling even further.

In that regard, today's 3:30 p.m. regionally televised game (channels 13, 7) will have the reverse angle of the one two years ago. Then, it was the Cavaliers fighting for respectability. This time, it's the Tigers who are being doubted after getting off to the school's worst start since 1985.

"We all know it's kind of important if we're going to stay in the thick of things," said Clemson coach Ken Hatfield, whose team won the ACC championship last year. "We tried to lay all the cards on the table. For us to have a good year, this is certainly a mighty important game."

It has not been a good year so far, especially in the ACC. First came the agonizing 24-20 defeat at home to the Seminoles, a game Clemson led for most of the first 57 minutes. Then came a 20-16 defeat to Georgia Tech the following week in Atlanta.

The Tigers have had problems at quarterback, where Richard Moncrief has been inconsistent at best and could be replaced by redshirt freshman Louis Solomon or true freshman Patrick Sapp. They also have had injury problems in the defensive backfield.

"We need to get things back on track," said junior tailback RodneyBlunt. "Back to when we were winning all the time, back to when we were beating Virginia all the time."

For those Clemson players who were around two years ago, today's game has added significance. It's a chance to pay back Virginia, not for the 20-7 defeat that ended the Tigers' dominance over the Cavaliers, but for the way their fans celebrated afterward.

"I was there when they tore down the goal posts and it was pretty hyped," said Blunt, who was a freshman then. "If you were on the other team, you felt pretty bad because their fans were acting like they won a world war or something like that."

That game was considered a significant step in Virginia's rise to prominence. It was the first time since George Welsh took over a moribund program in 1982 that the Cavaliers showed they had the speed to stay with the Tigers.

"We had to beat them once," said Welsh. "If you can't be them at all, you start thinking about it. You always do something to lose the game like you see happening to other teams around the country. The 1990 game helped us psychologically."

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