The Clemson Tigers have bedeviled the Maryland faithful since last fall. The basketball team lost to the perennial dormats of the ACC three times in one year, with the last loss keeping them out of the NCAAs for the first time in 12 seasons. In football the Terps lost a close 10-7 contest because of a bogus pass interference penalty that was so obviously wrong that the ACC league office apologized to Ralph Friedgen. Time for some payback.
More than a few sports writers have raved about Clemson and the rebirth of their running game but a closer look demonstrates that they are the same old Tigers of last year. Charlie Whitehurst must play well to win the game. Since 2003 Charlie hasn't been up to that kind of responsibility.
Stewart Mandel of SI pointed out the Clemson ran all 8 plays before kicking the winning FG against Texas A&M. What he failed to mention is that Charlie Whitehurst had been knocked out of the game and the previous series with Will Proctor at QB wasn't pretty. Clemson knew they would not win with Proctor throwing the ball. Freshman James Davis posted 101 yards on 19 carries for an impressive 5.3 average. Sounds like Clemson can finally run the ball again, no? Not if by "run the ball" you mean get first downs.
The other three running backs for Clemson combined for 63 yards on 26 carries for a gruesome 2.4 average. Of Davis' 101 yards 33 came on one play, he plodded through the rest of the game at a pedestrian 3.7 average. Overall Clemson only managed 3.6 yards per carry on 51 attempts. Last year Clemson would have never had the patience to run the ball 51 times so I suppose that is an improvement.
More alarming for the Tigers is that they gave up 248 yards and a turnstyle like 7.5 yards per carry to the Aggies. Included in that were runs of 49, 34, and 34 yards by different runners. The pass defense never sacked A&M QB Reggie McNeal and gave up pass plays of 31, 29 and 21 yards. This demonstrates that Clemson has big problems on defense and is prone to giving up the big play. Maryland will take advantage of this and fans should expect several big gains.
Clemson's punter also was horrid with a 25.3 yard average and a long punt of 31 yards. If the game is close this alone could sink Clemson with bad field position. On a positive note Clemson converted 6 FGs, on the negative side they had to settle for 6 FGs. Their only TD came on a 47 yard punt return in the 1st quarter.
Verdict: Maryland wins by shutting down Clemson's weak running game and harassing a still woosey Charlie Whitehurst. The offense makes enough big plays to put the game away in the 3rd quarter. Maryland 24 Clemson 16