By David Snyder
In College Park Saturday a final score of 30-17 in favor of Clemson did not indicate the manner in which the Terps were outplayed for the majority of the game.
For the second straight week, the Maryland defense struggled with its tackling, allowing the running back tandem of junior James Davis and sophomore C.J. Spiller to rush for a combined 235 yards. Davis, who previously had guaranteed a Clemson victory, backed up his prediction with 129 yards of hard-downhill running.
It appeared Clemson took a few pages out of the Virginia playbook, as a bulk of Cullen Harper’s 179 passing yards came on screens, swings and other short passes.
Sophomore Chris Turner and the Maryland offense were not nearly as efficient. After three third down conversions on their opening drive, the Terp offense managed to convert on third down only two more times for the remainder of the game. Of Turner’s 217 pass yards, 127 came during garbage time in the fourth quarter.
Playing from behind for the majority of the afternoon, Maryland was never able to get its all-important run game going behind a makeshift offensive line that featured true freshman Bruce Campbell and included walk-on redshirt freshman Paul Pinegar. The already depleted unit was nicked up even further. According to head coach Ralph Friedgen, Campbell missed time with an ACL injury and was replaced by injured started Scott Burley who also was unable to stay in the game. Guard Phil Costa was forced to move over to center when Edwin Williams was forced off the field with his own injury.
“I’ve never been associated with anything like this,” Friedgen said, referring to the game of musical chairs he was playing with his o-line. “I don’t condone losing, but I was proud of the way we hung in there.”
With the score tied 3-3 in the second quarter, a major turning point occurred when Friedgen opted to go for a fourth-and-one near midfield. The Clemson front seven stuffed senior Lance Ball in the backfield and set up their offensive with great field position.
It only took two minutes after the change of possession for Harper to hook up with junior wideout Aaron Kelly on a 27-yard laser beam touchdown pass over the middle. The Tigers would never look back.
Down 17-3 with only a handful of seconds to play in the half the Terps suffered another demoralizing sequence of events. Senior strong safety Christian Varner sacked Harper on the Terp 32-yard line, which appeared to end the half as Clemson had no timeouts.
However, Varner flexed his bicep and was immediately flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, stopping the clock and moving the ball to the 17. Kicker Mark Buchholz capitalized, drilling the 34-yard attempt, putting the Tigers ahead by three scores going into half.
When the Terps reemerged out of the tunnel in the second half they found much of student section had made the trip home, and down three scores, Ball and fellow senior running back Keon Lattimore might as well have left with them.
A team not built to be a pass-first offense had to change its identity after falling behind by as many as 27 points in the second half.
“We basically had to put some points on the board by throwing the ball. That took us out of our game plan,” said Lattimore, who rushed for 51 yards and a score. “Throwing the ball isn’t really our game. We like to run the ball to set up the pass.”
Turner attributed a lot of the pass offense’s struggles to Clemson’s multiple looks and numerous defenders dropping into coverage. The field conditions also appeared to affect Turner, who fumbled a snap because of what he called a “muddy” ball. Also, after one of Maryland’s only bright spots, a 12-yard Erin Henderson run on a fourth down fake punt, Turner dropped back and tripped over his own feet for an eight-yard loss.
Clemson’s duo of Davis and Spiller each rushed for over 100 yards in the same game for the fourth time in their careers…Ball’s 53 rushing yards moved him up to seventh on the UMD all-time rushing chart, surpassing Willie Joyner and then Alvin Blount…Turner’s fourth quarter interception was his first since his two INTs against Villanova…Harper’s two touchdown performance gave him 21 TDs on the year and tied him for first with Woodrow Dantzler and Charlie Whitehurst for TD passes in a season…after Clemson’s 70-14 victory over Central Michigan, the Tigers have an even 100 points in their last two games.
Posted October 29, 2007