Scouting Maryland: how the Tigers win

Ambush the quarterback, stop the run, protect Tajh Boyd

Clemson Tigers wide receiver Sammy Watkins catches a pass over Maryland Terrapins defensive back Dexter McDougle in the third for a touchdown.

Photo by Nathan Gray

Clemson Tigers wide receiver Sammy Watkins catches a pass over Maryland Terrapins defensive back Dexter McDougle in the third for a touchdown.

Scouting Maryland: how the Tigers win

1. Exploit the Terps' quarterback woes: Nobody likes kicking a turtle when it's down, but that won't stop the Tigers from doing their best to turn Maryland's season-long quarterbacking nightmare into a Death Valley disaster. Going into the Terps' game against Georgia Tech, there were no quarterbacks remaining on the Terps' active roster, and no one moved into the position had ever thrown a pass in a college game. The Terps, having lost four quarterbacks to season-ending injuries, started first-year freshman linebacker Shawn Petty - a native of nearby Greenbelt, Md. - on Saturday. He was backed by first-year freshman tight end Brian McMahon. Petty did a decent job, completing nine of 18 passes for 118 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception. Maryland has been the ACC's worst at giving up sacks, and Georgia Tech took Petty to the ground four times on Saturday.

2. Protect Tajh Boyd: Maryland's defense is its strength, and a high priority for the Terps will be in preventing Tajh Boyd from executing Clemson's offense. Maryland defenders have wreaked havoc in opposing backfields all season. The Terps rank 10th nationally with 7.6 tackles for loss per game, and are 12th in quarterback sacks. The Terps forced Wake Forest's usually-efficient Tanner Price in a 32 percent completion mark. Just as they did against Duke, the Tiger offensive line needs to give Boyd time to work his magic.

3. Play shut-down defense against the ACC's worst offense: Even when some of their quarterbacks were healthy, Maryland was having a hard time moving the chains, sustaining possession, scoring points and hanging onto the football. Going into the Georgia Tech game, Maryland ranked last in the ACC in scoring, total offense, first downs, sacks allowed and turnovers. The Terps were 11th in rushing, turnover margin and red-zone offense, and 10th in passing and third-down conversions. The Tigers held Duke to 85 yards rushing, and still managed to pressure the quarterback and keep the passing game under wraps. Clemson's defense has improved - now it's time to show it by dominating a struggling opponent.

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