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Vick, Dantzler Top Gator Bowl Bill

December 31, 2000

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ Michael Vick and Woody Dantzler agree: The Gator Bowl isn’t just about them.

But the quarterbacks are two of college football’s most dazzling performers, and the comparisons can’t be ignored.

Dantzler groaned when he first heard Clemson would be playing Virginia Tech in the Gator Bowl on Monday, knowing he would be asked time and again about Vick.

``Since it started, I was like, `Man, this is not what this game is going to be about,″ he said. ``This is Virginia Tech vs. Clemson.‴

Vick couldn’t agree more. When not answering questions about his future this week, he’s been peppered with questions about Dantzler.

``It’s not a one-on-one thing, me against Woody Dantzler,″ Vick said. ``It’s our football team going out there and trying to beat their football team. That’s what it’s all about, and I’m not going to get into that.″

Others have been more than happy to join the conversation, with defensive players from both teams saying it’s easier to prepare for such an opponent when going up against his clone every day in practice.

But most also think Vick is a cut above, if not two or three cuts.

``If Michael Vick doesn’t get hurt, they’re playing for the national championship again,″ Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said, noting Vick missed most of the Hokies’ 41-21 loss at Miami on Nov. 4. ``You can’t hardly tackle him if he’s full speed.″

Hokies linebacker Ben Taylor saw that again this week in practice, the first time the fleet and elusive left-hander has worked at near full speed since spraining his left ankle against Pittsburgh on Oct. 28.

``He had a couple of moves that about put me on my butt,″ Taylor said, laughing. ``I don’t think Woody will be doing those kind of moves.″

But Taylor meant no disrespect to Dantzler.

``We’ve just got to stop Woody Dantzler,″ he said. ``If we stop him, we stop the machine.″

Against Virginia on Sept. 23, Dantzler ran for 220 yards, including touchdown jaunts of 75 and 45 yards, and passed for 154 more and another TD. The game was the second of four straight where he exceeded 300 yards.

Vick rushed for 100 yards three times, including a 210-yard effort at Boston College on Sept. 28. That performance included a magnificent escape from pressure on an 82-yard scoring run that cemented his image as the most exciting college player.

Bowden, whose team lost 31-11 to the Hokies in Vick’s second game as a starter last year, witnessed an even more compelling performance in Virginia Tech’s 46-29 loss to Florida State for the national championship.

Vick rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown despite being sacked seven times. He also threw for 225 yards and a TD.

``I never thought that could be done, what he did against them,″ Bowden said of his father’s team. ``Had (Virginia Tech) not faltered in the kicking game, they probably win the game.″

Most of Dantzler’s runs are scripted, while most of Vick’s come when there appears no alternative. But while both players’ running attracts attention, Dantzler’s throwing is the key for the Tigers.

Bowden recalled the pirahnalike assault the Hokies put on his team last year to quickly turn a 17-11 game into the 31-11 blowout. The Hokies returned an interception 34 yards for a touchdown, then took a fumble 32 yards for another TD 38 seconds later.

``If you can throw it and catch it against Virginia Tech and you don’t turn it over, you can win the game,″ he said. ``If you can’t, you’re not going to.″

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