Maryland battles, but Clemson wins, 40-27

Tigers take control mid-game, as Tajh Boyd runs past Terps

Clemson's Sammy Watkins runs after a pass near Maryland's William Likely during the first quarter at Maryland.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson's Sammy Watkins runs after a pass near Maryland's William Likely during the first quarter at Maryland.

Rod McDowell carved up Maryland's defense for 160-something yards.

Not bad for the Tigers' No. 2 running threat.

When push came to shove - when Clemson really needed the running game that Chad Morris insists is the core element in his offense - the Tigers turned to a battered and frustrated Tajh Boyd to carry the load.

Tiger o-line opens holes for run game

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Nursing an injured left knee that limited Morris' play-calling for the first two-thirds of the game, Boyd provided the running punch that turned anybody's game into a near Tiger runaway and a 40-27 victory in Clemson's final trip to Big Ten-bound Maryland.

Boyd probably won't look back on this year's victory over the Terps - his second straight at College Park - as one of the highlights of his career.

But when it mattered most, he came through, leading the Tigers to a successful bounce-back from their dismal showing last week against FSU and, now, to a 7-1 record and a 5-1 ACC mark that keeps them solidly in position should the conference receive an at-large BCS bowl bid.

The Tigers' defense also came up big, twice turning the Terps away after second-half Clemson turnovers and paving the way for the victory.

"Our defense responded and our team responded," said Dabo Swinney. "It's not easy to win, and it's not easy to go on the road and win. Everybody wants to win, and I thought Maryland really competed incredibly hard out there.

"There's no question that the costly mistakes we made and them getting minimum points out of that was the difference in the game. That could have really hurt us. But our defense went out and responded. We got a turnover and then held them to a field goal."

With the Tigers clinging to a precarious 19-13 lead early in the fourth quarter, Clemson got a turning-point break on Bashaud Breeland's fumble-causing hit and Spencer Shuey's recovery that gave the Tigers the ball at the Maryland 22.

Two plays later, Clemson was in the red zone after a 13-yard keeper by Boyd on a read-option - his first called run since midway through the first half, when he limped off the field favoring his left knee.

After a five-yard run by McDowell, Boyd kept the ball for a four-yard touchdown run, and the Tigers seemed suddenly in control at 26-13.

It wasn't over yet, however.

Clemson's defense forced a three-and-out, but then the Terps found themselves with a chance when a disconnect between Boyd and D.J. Howard on an open wheel route resulted into an interception by Maryland's Isaac Goins.

At that point, Clemson's defense came up with perhaps its most critical stop of the game. On first down, Spencer Shuey and Stephone Anthony dropped Maryland's Lavern Jacobs for an 11-yard loss on a reverse, and Tigers took over on downs at their own 41 after forcing three straight incompletions.

The Tigers quickly cashed in on their opportunity, as a 40-yard pass from Boyd to Martavis Bryant set up a three-yard touchdown run by McDowell, putting Clemson comfortably on top, 33-13, with 7:57 left to play.

The teams swapped scores in the closing minutes, with Maryland scoring twice and Clemson getting a 45-yard touchdown run by McDowell.

Boyd finished 28-of-41 passing for 304 yards, while Watkins hauled in half those completions - for a new school record - and 163 yards. McDowell rushed for a career-high 161 yards.

Clemson ran 98 plays compared to 70 for Maryland (5-3, 1-3) and finished with a 551-364 advantage in total yardage. But the Tigers needed four field goals from Chandler Catanzaro to take a 19-13 lead into the fourth quarter.

"Our offense responded," Swinney said. "We moved the ball up and down the field all game. We came away with four field goals, and I felt we could have really put the game away a whole lot earlier if we'd have converted some of those field goals into touchdowns.

"Cat-man did his job. But when you're kicking field goals and moving the ball like we were, it kind of plays into their favor. They can hang around, and they were trying to play slow-down all night long."

The first half was a tussle, and at times a struggle, for the Tigers.

Clemson moved the ball well, and consistently, in the middle of the field, but then the offense broke down inside the red zone.

On the Tigers' first 13 snaps on series that started inside the 20, they lost a total of 19 yards.

As a result, for the first 29 minutes and 51 seconds, the offensive bottom line consisted of three chip-shot field goals by Chandler Catanzaro, and a 9-7 Clemson lead.

Even that wasn't easy to come by.

After starting the game with a defensive three-and-out, the Tigers took the ball and moved quickly down the field, and had a first-and-10 at the Maryland 15 after a 17-yard, third-and-six connection between Boyd and Martavis Bryant.

From there, the Tigers went nowhere, and Catanzaro salvaged points with a 31-yard field goal.

Clemson's lead was momentary. Three plays later, Maryland backup quarterback - and Greer, S.C. native - Caleb Rowe found second-team wideout Lavern Jacobs open in the middle of the field for what looked to be a first-down gain. But Clemson safety Travis Blanks, who was positioned perfectly to make the tackle when the ball was caught, inexplicably took an errant angle, ran himself out of position, and Jacobs - perhaps the most surprised player on the field - turned on his jets and outran Clemson's pursuit to the end zone for a 71-yard touchdown.

That was the last of the first-half scoring for Maryland - although, following a 29-yard field goal by Catanzaro that had cut the lead to 7-6 - it took an end-zone interception by freshman Jayron Kearse to keep the Terps from extending their lead.

Clemson edged ahead 9-7 on another Catanzaro field goal after a red-zone flop.

Then, after another red-zone chance by the Tigers came to nothing, and exchange of punts gave Clemson a final opportunity, at their own 42, with 1:54 remaining in the half.

Finally, the Tigers cashed in. They converted a third-and-seven with a 30-yard pass-and-run from Boyd to Watkins, and then, after a holding penalty against the Terps gave them a first-and-goal at the eight, Boyd tossed a four-yard touchdown pass to freshman tight end Jordan Leggett, who lined up in the backfield as a blocker on a run formation, eased outside behind a perfectly-executed dummy run inside by Adam Humphries, and hauled in a well-throw ball over a size-outmatched Maryland defender. Catanzaro's PAT made the score 16-7 at halftime.

The Tigers will be back on the road this week to face Virginia, and then will have a weekend off and extra time to prepare for their Thursday night ACC home finale against Georgia Tech.

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Comments » 16

TigerNE writes:

Guess the coaches and team are stilling going to be working on those "basics" Dabo says needed to be addressed....

A win is a win. I'll take it. But unless things are tightened up every game we play will be a close one until he hit SCar and whoever in a bowl wherever. Then, this kind of offense imprecision could be deadly.

waran writes:

As I don't live in SC, this was the first game I attended this season (ticket was bought before the loss to FSU). This was one of the worst offensive performance I have seen. The score does not clearly indicate the closeness of the game. FSU beat UMD 65-0 when they had their best team. We beat them 40 - 27, especially with many of their good players injured. I am sure that UMD coach can easily say that if they play 10 games against Clemson they will win 5 (and perhaps more with all their good players).

My concerns are similar to TigerNE - about USC and the bowl game. Dabo should not focus on giving excuses but get the team prepared to protect Tajh so that he can find his receivers.

TigerFan95 writes:

Clemson simply is not a good football team and I'm embarrased to say that we're ranked in the top-ten. Clearly we are not top-ten material. What's most discouraging to me about this is team is that it has a lot of upperclassmen. This fact, coupled with our total lack of recruiting and developing players in the positions that make consistently good programs (O-line and D-line) leads me to believe that we have now seeing the best we can ever expect from a Dabo lead team. After watching Saturday's game I know now without a doubt that we will lose to SC for the FIFTH straight time at the end of the year. The only thing up for debate is the score we'll see on all those garnet Tshirts. Knowing this, there is a part of me that hopes that we lose to UVA and GT in the coming weeks because a 10-2 season will not bring the type of changes we need to be a championship level team and will only continue our blind and stumbling trek down the never ending road of mediocrity.

columbiabill writes:

Unbelievable negativism! Please let us know the details of what changes you guys want. Man, a win is a win, top 10 or 15 recruiting years every year, please savor it. Don't let one lose to maybe the best team in the country cloud your thinking. This kind of thinking is no way to build and maintain a top 10 program year in and year out.

MarinetoTigerAlumni writes:

I think the negative comments come from how poor the offense is performing. We have become so use to them performing at a high level these past couples years that we expect them to blow everyone out especially when the upperclassmen we have. It is no doubt that our defense has stepped up and won many of our games for us this year. I'll take the win and I hope they can learn from the miscues and return to the dominating O that we have become accustomed to. Go Tigers!!!

TigerNE writes:

in response to columbiabill:

Unbelievable negativism! Please let us know the details of what changes you guys want. Man, a win is a win, top 10 or 15 recruiting years every year, please savor it. Don't let one lose to maybe the best team in the country cloud your thinking. This kind of thinking is no way to build and maintain a top 10 program year in and year out.

My requests are simple: Find the right combination of linesmen that can give runners a real opening so McDowell and others aren't just trying to push through 8 or 9 guys for a few yards. Get Boyd's confidence up so his throws aren't so erratic. Perhaps the trick for him is to not restrain his running and let him have it as an option. It seems like he gets a lot more calmed down and in control when he knows he can run out of a situation he doesn't like. Otherwise he's always of the edge of a panic. Or so it seems.

33dtb writes:

We don't need no no steenkin' O-Line talent evaluation............. just take the Daniel or BHP High School O-Line to the next game.

Seriously, just recruit the the entire O-Line of either school - - feed them up over the summer and START them next fall....Save a whole lot of trouble and trouble.

DAYUM .... go to Maryland and BARELY beat a beat-up team...... I won't be able to watch the USC game.

waran writes:

in response to columbiabill:

Unbelievable negativism! Please let us know the details of what changes you guys want. Man, a win is a win, top 10 or 15 recruiting years every year, please savor it. Don't let one lose to maybe the best team in the country cloud your thinking. This kind of thinking is no way to build and maintain a top 10 program year in and year out.

Winning against a depleted team only in the 4th quarter means nothing. Especially when you have USC ahead in the schedule. I guess you will join Dabo and find another excuse for losing the 5th time. Dabo has to save his job by giving poor excuses (i.e. if we play 10 times, we will win 5).

More importantly, I did not see any passion or leadership from anyone in the team yesterday. I saw the video of FSU QB before the game. I saw the video of UMB RB. I have not seen a single Tiger saying our offense is doing poorly and we are going to do a better job. I guess the leadership from the coaching staff is not existent.

FlopEye writes:

Six of seven comments are VERY NEGATIVE.
Columbiabill is the only post that is
positive. One loss, one bad game ( against
Maryland) and lot of folks seem to in a
panic state. Did S.Car's come-back against
Mizzu create that much aingst?

33dtb writes:

in response to FlopEye:

Six of seven comments are VERY NEGATIVE.
Columbiabill is the only post that is
positive. One loss, one bad game ( against
Maryland) and lot of folks seem to in a
panic state. Did S.Car's come-back against
Mizzu create that much aingst?

been worried about O-Line situation since the debacle when we last played Alabama..

columbiabill writes:

in response to waran:

Winning against a depleted team only in the 4th quarter means nothing. Especially when you have USC ahead in the schedule. I guess you will join Dabo and find another excuse for losing the 5th time. Dabo has to save his job by giving poor excuses (i.e. if we play 10 times, we will win 5).

More importantly, I did not see any passion or leadership from anyone in the team yesterday. I saw the video of FSU QB before the game. I saw the video of UMB RB. I have not seen a single Tiger saying our offense is doing poorly and we are going to do a better job. I guess the leadership from the coaching staff is not existent.

Hi Waran,
Understand your comment, but come back to me after the USC game. One of us will need to eat crow. It will not be a lose in Columbia. Tweet that!

DahlonegaJoe writes:

Agree that the O-Line is not where we want or need it to be to be a consistent winner and national leader. Skill players have really upped our game and our defense has improved.
Need to be able to consistently hold our own or control the line of scrimmage both directions against strong opponents. Hopefully that is the next step in our process of building a consistent contender. Go Tigers

DerrikB writes:

This is the same team that played so well the beginning of the year. The change is in the spirit and attitude of the team. They need to go sit in a big teepee or whatever and get their mojo back. C'mon tigers let's go!

waran writes:

in response to columbiabill:

Hi Waran,
Understand your comment, but come back to me after the USC game. One of us will need to eat crow. It will not be a lose in Columbia. Tweet that!

Columbiabill:

I will be glad to eat what ever if we beat USC. That is a small price to pay as compared to listening to my friends and family who studied at USC for the next whole year.

Your comments give me hope, much more than what I got after attending the Maryland game or USC play MO. My only goal is to put pressure on Dabo to get them prepared. Go Tigers.

CUNo1Fan writes:

in response to DahlonegaJoe:

Agree that the O-Line is not where we want or need it to be to be a consistent winner and national leader. Skill players have really upped our game and our defense has improved.
Need to be able to consistently hold our own or control the line of scrimmage both directions against strong opponents. Hopefully that is the next step in our process of building a consistent contender. Go Tigers

I've been saying the same thing forever and I agree completely. It all starts in the trench, win the LOS battle on both sides and you will usually end up winning the game. Lose it and you usually lose the game with it.

Problem is that starts with the Coaches and I just don't see the commitment from them on really going after and recruiting top quality linemen. Look at the Tiger's recruiting classes for this year in terms of linemen. It has only 3 linemen - 2 for O and 1 for D all of them 3 stars. Last year was better with several 4 stars but I just don't see the commitment to consistently bring in the top quality linemen to go with the skill players.

I love what Dabo has done with the program and it has come a long way since the dumpster fire of West and mediocrity of Bowden. However, I just don't see the Tigers taking the next step and consistently winning against the top programs in the country until Dabo and the rest of the coaching staff place a much higher emphasis on top linemen to go with the skill players.

33dtb writes:

in response to CUNo1Fan:

I've been saying the same thing forever and I agree completely. It all starts in the trench, win the LOS battle on both sides and you will usually end up winning the game. Lose it and you usually lose the game with it.

Problem is that starts with the Coaches and I just don't see the commitment from them on really going after and recruiting top quality linemen. Look at the Tiger's recruiting classes for this year in terms of linemen. It has only 3 linemen - 2 for O and 1 for D all of them 3 stars. Last year was better with several 4 stars but I just don't see the commitment to consistently bring in the top quality linemen to go with the skill players.

I love what Dabo has done with the program and it has come a long way since the dumpster fire of West and mediocrity of Bowden. However, I just don't see the Tigers taking the next step and consistently winning against the top programs in the country until Dabo and the rest of the coaching staff place a much higher emphasis on top linemen to go with the skill players.

Amen

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