After Clemson kicked off with the score tied 21-21, Tech faced a third-and-nine at its own 31-yard line. Dewberry flipped a screen pass to Lavette in the left flat. There was seemingly no room there, and no room five or 10 yards upfield, either. However, with a fake here, a, stutter step there, Lavette somehow gained 19 yards. At least three Tigers grabbed nothing but air.
"What he does is make you miss," says Seattle Seahawks scout Rick Reiprish. "He's got a good initial move." Says Tech's running back coach. Rip Scherer, "He has great vision. He doesn't have Tony Dorsett's great burst of speed, but like Dorsett, he sees things. I ask him. 'Why did you make this cut?' and he doesn't know."
Tech stalled at the Clemson 47, and Yellow Jacket safety Clive Pounds downed the ensuing punt on the three-yard line. Clemson picked up only one first down, and Tech got the ball back at its own 46 with 5:19 to play. After breaking a couple of fullback traps, Tech had a first-and-10 at the Tiger 14, where Lavette once again was bottled up on the left side. "Our defense was on the field for most of the second half," he said. "I was fresh. I was going to make something happen." He cut inside, bounced off several defenders and juked his way to the one. Two plays later, Easley scored. "Robert just got it down there, and we won the game," Curry says. "The fullback plays and the naked bootlegs were all based on Robert."
At Cartersville (Ga.) High, Lavette ran for 5,870 yards, and before enrolling at Tech he hadn't been on a losing team since he was 11 years old. In his first game as a freshman he scored two touchdowns in a 24-21 victory over Alabama, but Tech didn't win again that year. "I was frustrated," he says. "I really hated the place. I considered leaving, and I went in to talk about it to Coach Curry, and he was as frustrated as I was. I thought, 'Wow! It can't get any worse.' "
Lavette gained 1,208 yards and scored 19 touchdowns as a sophomore, but last season, hampered by a sprained ankle and a queasy stomach after eating pregame meals of steak and eggs—"I threw up during plays and in my stance," he says—his totals dropped to 803 yards and five TDs. Now he eats carbohydrates before games, and so does the rest of the team. "Everybody complains that it's my fault," says Lavette. "I think some guys sneak off to Burger King."
No one has thrown up this year. After all, winning is a lot more palatable than losing.