Clemson's improving defense takes another step forward

Rashard Hall tackles Maryland RB Brandon Ross in the second quarter

Photo by Mark Crammer

Rashard Hall tackles Maryland RB Brandon Ross in the second quarter

Defense Breakdown: Maryland edition

None

— While Clemson’s pyrotechnic-friendly offense gets most of the headlines, the Tigers’ defense has steadily improved over the last month.

Saturday, they took another big step against a beat-up Maryland team. The Terrapins managed just 10 points and 180 yards of total offense. It was the Tigers’ lowest point total of the season, and lowest yardage total since holding Coastal Carolina to 179 on Halloween 2009.

Maryland played without its top four quarterbacks; freshman quarterback Shawn Petty, a converted linebacker, completed six of 12 passes for 41 yards with two lost fumbles. The Terps were also without their top receiver (freshman Stefon Diggs) and tailback (Wes Brown), who missed the game with ankle injuries.

“No letup,” said sophomore defensive end Corey Crawford. “I feel sorry for what they got going on, but as coach (Dabo) Swinney said, that’s their problem.”

Crawford got the Tigers’ first fumble return score in over a year, scooping a Petty fumble and rolling 16 yards for a touchdown.

“I just saw it was in open space, picked I up and ran with it,” he said. “That’s what they tell us, if the ball is in open space and it’s around, by all means scoop it and score.”

The Tigers held Maryland to 1-of-13 third down conversions, a huge piece of their success, Swinney said.

“Last year on third and 1, you’d hear everyone in the stands hold their breath, ‘Oh, God, it’s third and one,’” Swinney said. “Heck, us down on the sidelines were holding our breath, ‘Oh, God, it’s third and one.’ But you look at how our team has improved. They’re like, fourth and 8, let’s go for it, they don’t even hesitate. We trust our players and they’ve earned that.”

Watkins leaves early: Sammy Watkins’ up-and-down sophomore season played to form Saturday. Watkins caught four passes for 60 yards, but left the game early after re-aggravating an ankle bruise.

Watkins missed the final three offensive drives of the first half, standing alone on the sidelines, helmet in hand. He didn’t return to the field for the second half, but emerged in the fourth quarter wearing sweats. He was still Clemson’s leading receiver.

“It’s nothing major,” Watkins said. “Sometime last week I had a bruise on my ankle. I re-injured it, but it’s not that bad.”

Watkins set ACC freshman records for receptions, receiving yardage and receiving touchdowns last fall, but missed the first two games while serving a suspension connected to a May drug arrest. He also missed Clemson’s win at Boston College with an abdominal illness related to poor kidney function and dehydration. He rebounded to set the program’s all-time single-game receiving yardage record with 202 yards at Wake Forest.

Hopkins moves up: Junior DeAndre Hopkins moved up Clemson’s all-time receiving yardage list with four catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. He moved into second place – past his late uncle, Terry Smith – and is now 23 yards from passing Aaron Kelly for first place. Kelly had 2,733 yards from 2005-08.

Anthony starts: This week, defensive coordinator Brent Venables insisted middle linebackers Spencer Shuey and Stephone Anthony were “options 1A and 1B” at the position, even though Shuey had started the last three weeks. In that span, Shuey had 37 tackles in 156 snaps, while Anthony had 13 in 69 snaps. However, Anthony was on the field for the first snap Saturday, with Shuey relieving him for the second snap. He led the Tigers in tackles, with seven; Shuey was second with six.

Clemson honors Hill: Clemson honored former Maryland receiver Darryl Hill Saturday in a pregame ceremony. Hill was the first African-American player to play in Memorial Stadium, making 10 catches on Nov. 16, 1963. He was also the ACC’s first African-American player.

© 2012 OrangeAndWhite.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 4

michtiger writes:

I hope what we are seeing is improvement and not just three very weak opponents. Today we played against a team with a LB as QB, both wide receivers out, best back out, thus little chance they beat you on pass and they still ran for 139 yds. No it was not mostly against the subs. 5 fumbles in last two games after 1 in first 8 is of concern. hope Dabo shows a little annoyance because NCSt is much better and SC is the first real challenge since FSU. Only two of our wins have winning records, Ball state and Duke. Great team needs to play against best, Go tigers.

ManTiger writes:

Yea hard to really tell when the rest of the ACC is this pathetic

JSBCharleston writes:

Still not sold on our defense. Their running back was averaging 7.2 yards a carry late in the game. I am glad that Clemson honored Darryl Hill for what he endured as the first black player in the ACC. If you didn't see the documentary-He said the most abuse he took was from Clemson fans when he played here.

TrevorT writes:

in response to michtiger:

I hope what we are seeing is improvement and not just three very weak opponents. Today we played against a team with a LB as QB, both wide receivers out, best back out, thus little chance they beat you on pass and they still ran for 139 yds. No it was not mostly against the subs. 5 fumbles in last two games after 1 in first 8 is of concern. hope Dabo shows a little annoyance because NCSt is much better and SC is the first real challenge since FSU. Only two of our wins have winning records, Ball state and Duke. Great team needs to play against best, Go tigers.

Mich, I apologize if I'm remembering wrong, but weren't you the one who was saying how Duke's offensive line was so good and how Clemson should be worried about them? Now that we stomped them they are demoted to being a very weak team? I understand your point. SC will definitely be another level of competition. But let's give our guys the credit they deserve. They are playing some serious football right now! I see no reason to doubt they can beat anyone if they keep their focus. In line with that, you are definitely right about the need to tighten up on ball protection.

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features