Heading into Clemson’s 1988 matchup with Virginia, the Cavaliers had never defeated the Tigers in 27 tires. And when No. 11 Clemson visited Charlottesville, Va., 28-0 seemed very likely.
Though Virginia was a much improved team with future NFL talent in Shawn and Herman Moore, the Cavaliers were a couple of years away from changing history. The Tigers on the other hand were the defending ACC Champions and hit the field at Scott Field with a 3-1 record and were coming off a 30-13 win at Georgia Tech the week before.
Clemson’s only blemish was a heartbreaking 24-21 loss to Florida State on the infamous “Puntrooskie” play. The Cavaliers were 2-2 and 1-1 in the ACC at the time.
The game was a defensive struggle in the first half, as the two teams went into the locker room tied at 0. It marked the first time since 1979 a Clemson game was scoreless in the first half.
The Tigers got their offense going in the second half as Chris Gardocki booted a field goal late in the third for a 3-0 lead. But the Cavaliers responded with a 14-yard Moore-to-Moore touchdown for a 7-3 advantage.
Down by four and needing a touchdown to keep the streak alive. With two minutes minutes to play, Clemson moved the ball to the Cavaliers’ 14-yard line but faced a third down-and-2. The Tigers, who rushed for 293 yards, called for an option play.
As quarterback Rodney Williams walked to the line of scrimmage, he noticed Virginia’s defense had no one covering flanker Chip Davis. Williams did not show his hand. He took the snap, and though he bobbled the ball, he calmly threw it to a wide-open Davis, who walked into the end zone for the game-winning score with 1:52 to play.
“This is actually the second time that has happened,” Williams said after the game. “I figured it was a once in-a-lifetime situation when it came at North Carolina last year. But here it was again. Ironically, it happened with the same formation and exactly the same play called.”
Williams finished the afternoon 5-for-8 for 73 yards.
The Clemson defense, which held Virginia to 280 total yards, got a stop on the Cavaliers’ following possession to secure the win, keeping the streak alive.
For Williams’ it marked the 10th time he led the Tigers on a game-winning or game tying score in the fourth quarter during his Clemson career. The Cavaliers went on to win five of their last six games in 1988.
—photo courtesy of Clemson Athletic Communications
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