ACC: Chris Cosh

Defensive changes at Maryland challenging and welcome

April, 23, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- There have been "some heated times" this spring between Maryland's two competitive coordinators, but don't mistake that for animosity -- James Franklin and first-year defensive coordinator Don Brown get along well.

But Brown, who spent the past five seasons as head coach at Massachusetts, hasn't wasted any time making life difficult for an ACC offense.

It just happens to be Maryland's.

"Let me say this," Franklin said, "I think Don Brown is the single best hire that Ralph Friedgen has made since he's been here eight years. I think he's going to bring a mentality, he's extremely competitive, he's extremely aggressive. I can't wait until spring ball and camp is over so we can get back on the same team. During spring we're going after each other. We're both very competitive. We've had some heated times just because we're both competitors."

Brown, who was hired when Chris Cosh left for the same position at Kansas State, has implemented a new scheme this spring, and those within the program seem to agree it's a refreshing yet challenging change.

Transition is nothing new for this defense, which introduced Brown as its third coordinator in five seasons. The hopes in College Park are that Brown's aggressive style -- even though it has the potential to give up a few big plays -- will create far more momentum-changing plays and opportunities for the offense. Brown knows his system's strengths, but he also knows how to hide its weaknesses.

This spring, he has installed five fronts, seven different coverages, and about 16 different blitzes.

"What we've tried to do is throw as much scheme and concepts at them as we can, get it on tape, so we can utilize it for teaching purposes for the fall," said Brown, whose Minutemen reached the 2006 FCS championship game. "We threw as much as we could at them at a fast pace so when they come back in the fall they'll hear it for the second time. Hopefully it will be a lot of recall for them.

"I'm totally pleased with their effort, their energy, their focus and determination. I think we're very talented at wide receiver, so we've asked our corners to play a lot on the island. I think they've done a solid job. That will give some flexibility in what we do up front."

(Read full post)

Mailblog in the morning

April, 3, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Good morning, ACC fans. With the Hokies starting their spring practices this week, one question seems to be on the minds of Virginia Tech fans:

Daniel in Wytheville VA writes: Everyone is talking about Virginia Tech possibly make a national title run this year. Do you think it is possible? Tech never seems to do well when there are high expectations.

Heather Dinich: After watching the Hokies do so much with so little last year, I'm not counting them out for anything. That said, this is still a young team. Those receivers who managed to catch a whopping eight touchdowns last year? They're sophomores now. This team will be better, but so will Georgia Tech. And Miami. And everyone else in the Coastal Division. Let's see how the Hokies fare against Alabama before we start declaring them national champs.

Kok in Putnam County, Fla., writes: If Florida State stays healthy, do you see them as a lock to win the ACC championship this year.

Heather Dinich: Nobody is a "lock," Kok, but the Seminoles are my spring pick as the favorite to win the Atlantic Division. Let's see who emerges during summer camp.

Well-informed Miami fan "Monty" writes: Heather, Here's one for ya'. Apparently Miami basketball player Jimmy Graham has been working out with the football team and is expected to play with the football team this upcoming fall. At 6-8 and 240 pounds, he's supposedly working out at the TE position. This is NOT a belated April Fool's joke.

Heather Dinich: Thanks for the tip, Monty, I'll see if I can get a post worked up on it.

Adam B. in Apple Valley, MN writes: Hi Heather. I've been a reader of your CFB/ACC blog since the Baltimore Sun days, and you're doing a great job on ESPN. I can tell by your mini-conference preview the other day (where you named the top 3 teams in each division)you're not very high on Maryland this year. I know they lost a lot, but they've got a lot of good young players coming up. Plus I think with Jordan Steffy and Josh Portis gone Chris Turner can finally settle in to the QB position knowing it's his job in his senior season. Add James Franklin being in his second year as OC, and Don Brown taking over for Chris Cosh at DC (defenite upgrade in my opinion) and I think Maryland will compete in the Atlantic Division in 2009. I was just curious about your thoughts on Maryland?

Heather Dinich: Thanks for reading, Adam. I agree with your points, but here's the thing ... Turner (at least once Steffy's thumb was injured) was the undisputed starter last season, and the Terps had one of their most veteran teams in a long time and still couldn't close the deal. They've got a knack for staying in the hunt until the final two games of the season and then blowing it. So why, when so many questions abound (linebacker, center, backup quarterback, young receivers ...) should Terps fans be any more convinced about this year's team?

Ben in Miami writes: Regarding the ACC, you said "On the verge? Florida State. Miami. Georgia Tech. North Carolina. None of which have a senior quarterback in 2009." ... Is that really cause for concern? All three Heisman finalists last year were juniors. Numerous underclassmen have succeeded in the conference at quarterback. Why do these ACC teams need a senior quarterback to succeed? Age ain't nothin' but a number!

Heather Dinich: Fair point, and you'll have a hard time finding a woman who disagrees with your last sentence. The point is, though, the ACC quarterbacks are still relatively young when it comes to playing time. Last year was Christian Ponder's first year as a starter, same for Nesbitt, and Yates, well, he threw 18 interceptions in 2007 compared to four last year. Yates, a junior now, makes my point. It's not cause for concern, and they don't need to be seniors to succeed, but more than one year as leader of the offense helps.

Chuck writes: There is a great deal of attention on Virginia Tech football this Spring. Several writers have even pegged them as being a serious national title contender. Why has so little been written about their lack of depth at the QB position. Tyrod Taylor is a very injury prone QB. If he gets hurt, the Hokies' season is over. Why have writers seemingly brushed aside this danger in the Hokies' depth chart this year?

Heather Dinich: Well, not only did Taylor get hurt last year, but so did Sean Glennon -- in the same game -- and their season wasn't exactly over. A significant amount has been written about that problem, and Frank Beamer and his staff are well aware of it. That's one reason why Marcus Davis is starting the spring at quarterback, and not receiver.

Roady's Humanitarian Bowl preview

December, 30, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

WHO TO WATCH: Senior linebacker Moise Fokou. He has a team-best five sacks and his pressure on Colin Kaepernick will be integral. The former walk-on leads the Terps with 11 tackles for loss. His five sacks are the most by a Maryland linebacker since Shawne Merriman had a team-best 8.5 in 2004.

WHAT TO WATCH: Maryland's defensive adjustments in the second half. The Terps will need the first half to figure out Nevada's unique offense, and they have been at their best in the second half this season. Maryland held ACC opponents to an average of 141 yards and 6.6 points in the second half this year, but will be without former defensive coordinator Chris Cosh, who was hired at Kansas State.

WHY TO WATCH: The Terps have won three of their past four bowl games and are the ACC's next chance at improving upon the league's 2-3 record.

Maryland's defense faces stiff challenge with interim coordinator

December, 29, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

In early December, Maryland linebacker Dave Philistin was one of the few players who got a phone call from his position coach, former defensive coordinator Chris Cosh, informing Philistin of his decision to take a job at Kansas State.

What Philistin didn't realize after he hung up the phone was that Cosh wouldn't coach the Terps in the Roady's Humanitarian Bowl. Cosh left so abruptly that not even his interim replacement, assistant Al Seamonson, got a chance to talk to him about it.

"It's huge," Philistin said. "What surprised me was the timing of it. I thought he was going to do the bowl game and then afterwards part ways. It's pretty devastating. You don't know what to think when you go to work the next day, but everything happens for a reason.

"What you lose is a sense of guidance almost. This guy has been my mentor for the past two seasons as an inside linebacker. It's like where do I go now? Especially for a bowl game. Coach Cosh, he knows his stuff. He preps us well as far as the game plan and all that."

Of all the opponents Maryland needs to be at its sharpest on defense for this season, Nevada would be at the top of the list. The Wolf Pack boast a 2,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher and 1,000-yard receiver. Oh, and the quarterback rushed for more than 1,000 yards, too.

"It's crazy," Philistin said. "I haven't heard anything about them except when I watch film, but the way they play, you would think you hear more about them."

The Wolf Pack have quietly put together one of the most productive offenses in the country, as Nevada is No. 2 in the nation in rushing offense, fifth in total offense, and 12th in scoring offense. They're among the best at earning first downs and controlling the clock. 

"They put up a lot of yards," Navarre said. "They're a big-play offense. A lot of plays we watched the quarterback was going for 60 yards and the running back was going for 60 yards. The quarterback, he's 6-6, he's not real heavy but he runs real fast. He's got real long legs. He's not going to juke you or anything, but once he gets in stride he's gone."

Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw for 2,479 yards with 19 touchdown and five interceptions during the regular season. The sophomore also rushed for 1,115 yards with 16 rushing touchdowns, ranking 12th in the nation in total offense (299.5 ypg).

The Terps will also have to worry about sophomore running back Vai Taua, who had 1,420 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on 213 carries. He ranks ninth in the nation in rushing. Senior wide receiver Marko Mitchell is Kaepernick's favorite target, having recorded 56 receptions for 1,011 yards and nine touchdowns during the regular season.

Still, it was only good enough to finish in a tie for second place in the Western Athletic Conference.

Maryland's defense isn't bad -- they've only allowed more than 30 points twice this season -- but it was as inconsistent as the entire team.

(Read full post)

Maryland season review

December, 15, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

The Terps were a microcosm of the entire league -- impossible to predict. A surprising loss at Middle Tennessee on Sept. 6 was followed one week later with an upset of No. 23-ranked Cal. Maryland finished with a 4-1 record against ranked opponents, and was 3-4 against unranked teams. Only Florida and Oklahoma had more wins (five) against opponents ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.

When it mattered most, though, Maryland came up short. For the second time under coach Ralph Friedgen, Maryland had the chance to win the Atlantic Division and let it slip away. The embarrassing 37-3 loss to Florida State at home sealed the Terps' fate, and the season finale at Boston College meant little more than an audition for a better bowl game. They missed out on that, too, and in a matter of two weeks went from contending for the ACC title to being Boise-bound. Maryland lost three of its final four games and was held to negative yards rushing in two of those losses.

Offensive MVP: Quarterback Chris Turner. He is 5-1 as a starter against ranked opponents, the lone loss coming in the regular season finale at Boston College. Turner entered that game not having thrown an interception against a ranked team in 185 pass attempts. Turner threw a career-high 11 touchdown passes this season.

Defensive MVP: Linebacker Moise Fokou. He posted a team-high five sacks this season, which is tied for third in the ACC among linebackers, and the most by a Maryland linebacker since Shawne Merriman had 8.5 in 2004. He is the only player in the ACC with at least 70 tackles and five sacks. He also leads the Terps with 11 tackles for loss this season.

Turning point: Florida State's fumble return for a touchdown with 9:19 left in the second quarter put the Seminoles ahead 14-0 and Maryland's chances at clinching the Atlantic Division significantly diminished. The Terps fell behind 24-0 in that game, and any chance of a comeback ended when Da'Rel Scott lost his second fumble with 13:19 left.

What's next: The Terps will face an explosive Nevada offense in the Roady's Humanitarian Bowl, and they will be without former defensive coordinator Chris Cosh, who took a job at Kansas State, and special teams coordinator Danny Pearman, who was hired at Clemson. Al Seamonson will serve as interim defensive coordinator and Brian White, an intern and former graduate assistant, will take over tight ends and help with special teams.

Clemson's Koenning lands at K-State

December, 8, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Well, that didn't take long. Kansas State scooped up former Clemson defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, who recently resigned from Clemson. The move makes sense, and he'll join former Maryland defensive coordinator Chris Cosh there.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 13

November, 21, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Heading into this weekend, nine teams still remain in contention to play in the ACC championship game and everyone, I repeat everyone, can still become bowl eligible if they're not already. No other conference can say that.

1. The scenarios. Miami's loss to Georgia Tech opened things up for almost everyone in the Coastal. Everyone but Duke has three losses in that division. The Terps can clinch a berth in the ACC championship game if they beat FSU and Wake Forest beats Boston College.

2. Florida State's changes in the secondary. The Noles will definitely be without starting safety Darius McClure (torn cartilage in his left knee), and could be without starting safety Myron Rolle, who could be late-arriving because of his interview in Alabama for the Rhodes Scholarship. Defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews hasn't revealed much during the week about his rotation.

3. Maryland's second half defensive adjustments. The Terps have been at their best late in the game, giving up an average of 140 yards and 23 total points in the final 30 minutes of their six ACC games. Last week, the Terps halted six second-half UNC drives. Defensive coordinator Chris Cosh said he has relied heavily this season on his veteran players contributing to the sideline discussions about what works and what doesn't.

4. The quarterbacks in the I-40 rivalry. Will Butch Davis go with Cam Sexton or his original starter, T.J. Yates? Will either one of them be able to outperform the Pack's Russell Wilson, who has thrown 12 touchdowns and no interceptions in his past six starts? NC State has lost 11 of its past 15 games to UNC, but five of the past six losses have been by eight points or less.

5. The battle of the backs in Charlottesville. Since recovering from his Oct. 9 pulled hamstring, Clemson running back C.J. Spiller has 589 all-purpose yards over the past three weeks, an average of 196.3 yards per game. Virginia tailback Cedric Peerman hasn't quite been himself since he fumbled against Miami, but the Cavaliers are 11-1 when he gets 15 or more rushing attempts. The lone loss? Miami.

6. Wake Forest kicker Sam Swank. The Demon Deacons' top scorer is expected to return for the first time since injuring his quadriceps in early October. Is he still up to game-winner form?

7. Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper. It's time to pay attention to this guy again. Since having surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder on Oct. 19, Harper has thrown for at least 240 yards in each game. His improvement over the past three weeks boosted him from fifth to first in the ACC in passing efficiency.

8. Maryland quarterback Chris Turner. He has quietly developed into one of the league's better quarterbacks this season. Turner has just one interception in his last 188 pass attempts, dating back to the fourth quarter of the Sept. 20 win over Eastern Michigan. Will the offensive line protect him from FSU's aggressive pass rush?

9. The defensive struggle in Winston-Salem. Boston College leads the nation in interceptions with 21, and the defense or special teams has scored a touchdown in six games this season, including five straight. Wake Forest, though, is No. 4 in the nation in turnover margin, having gained 29 and lost 15.

10. Virginia Tech kicker Dustin Keys. Odds are he won't be kicking any game-winners against Duke, but Keys is just four field goals away from setting the school season record. Another note on the Hokies: If you're wondering about the stickers on their helmets this weekend, they say "JD" and are in remembrance of Joseph "JD" Burroughs, a student manager for the football team who was killed in a car accident this past summer.

VT's quarterback a mystery, not necessarily a concern

November, 6, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Maryland linebacker Moise Fokou doesn't know them personally, but he rattles off the names of Virginia Tech's playmakers like they're on a first-name basis: Macho, Tyrod, Glennon, Holt.

"We like to familiarize ourselves with our opponents," Fokou said.

He just doesn't know who their starting quarterback will be.

It's remained a mystery to just about everyone except the Hokies this week, as starters Tyrod Taylor and Sean Glennon both suffered left ankle sprains during the Florida State game and spent most of their bye week wearing protective boots. They practiced in limited capacity this week, but Cory Holt, the Hokies' third-string quarterback-turned-receiver-turned quarterback again, was preparing as if he was the starter. They all bring a different dimension to the game, but neither team seems overly concerned about it, despite the weighty implications of the game in the conference race.

Virginia Tech, as expected, has done nothing but express confidence in Holt, a fifth-year senior who played admirably in a tough situation at Florida State. And the Terps have zeroed in on the Hokies' running game, regardless of who starts at quarterback.

"They're a running football team," said senior defensive tackle Jeremy Navarre. "Whoever they put back there, whoever starts, they're going to stick with what they do best and they're going to run the ball. They've got a big offensive line. All year long their main thing has been to run the ball. If you don't stop this team from running the ball, they're going to do it all game long."

Unless, of course, Glennon is playing quarterback. He's the one who can throw it. (Although tight end Greg Boone, who was moved to backup behind Holt when the starters went down, claims he'll throw it 80 yards every time if he gets in there. Seriously). Taylor is the one who brings a different dimension with his feet. He has had seven running plays of 20 yards or more this season and is the team's second leading rusher.

"I think Holt is kind of a blend between both of them," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "He's very mobile. I don't think he's as fast as Taylor, but I think he can do all the things that Taylor does. He's a big, tall, strong guy just like Glennon. He's in between. They can go either way with him. I thought he did a tremendous job last week having not gotten a lot of reps. He ran the option, he threw the ball ... they must have a lot of confidence in him he can do the things they ask him to do with very little reps."

They do.

(Read full post)

ACC's internal affairs

November, 5, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said quarterback Cullen Harper's three interceptions at Boston College were "just poor decisions. Simple as that." It's somewhat of a concern for Swinney, considering Harper is a fifth-year senior. One of Harper's interceptions was a late throw, he didn't go through the progression properly on another, and he forced a throw into coverage on the third. While Harper made some key throws under pressure in that win, Swinney said his quarterback has to learn he doesn't have to win the game by himself. Swinney said he is frustrated by Clemson's inability to put opponents away when it has the chance.

Sophomore do-it-all athlete Anthony Parker-Boyd has been tasked with playing the role of Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt this week. He's about Nesbitt's size and has a similar running style, so he's given the defense a good look, but the Tar Heels know they can't simulate the true speed of the triple option. That's why getting off to a fast start will be so important in this noon kickoff, something UNC has struggled with in its early games. From watching Georgia Tech's game film from last week, UNC noticed Florida State played a lot of man to man coverage against some new formations and it didn't always work.

The way coach Jeff Jagodzinski tells it, offensive coordinator Steve Logan appears to be caught in a catch-22. Jagodzinski said they didn't have an aggressive game plan against Clemson because they didn't want to turn it over. "You can't have it both ways," he said. "We can sling it, but I'm going to try to avoid a multiple turnover game. You don't even give yourself a chance that way. At some point you've got to go make a play." Jagodzinski said he still thinks Chris Crane is the best option at this point, despite his eight touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

In order to help prepare for the hostile environment at Lane Stadium, the Terps have cranked the artificial crowd noise up during practices this week. (Not sure if "Enter Sandman" was on the playlist, though). Defensive coordinator Chris Cosh said turnovers will be a key to the game, and something he wants to see more of. The Terps have been practicing stripping the ball this week and picking them up. Cosh said he has reminded his players that Cory Holt is a quarterback, and a veteran who knows the system, so he is not to be overlooked if he is the starter.

The Hokies are wary of Maryland quarterback Chris Turner, but their first priority, defensive end Orion Martin said, is to stop the run. They also plan to bring "four-man heat, like we always do," Martin said. While the defense has been concentrating on stopping ACC leading rusher Da'Rel Scott, who is listed as questionable on the injury report, Virginia Tech's offense has been focused on developing its own running game. Offensive guard Nick Marshman said the offensive coaches have stressed "running the ball with authority," something they haven't done since the Nebraska game. The Hokies had 206 rushing yards at Nebraska, a number that declined with each game since and hit a season-low of 82 at Florida State.

ACC's lunchtime links: In defense of coordinators

October, 30, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

If Wake Forest fans want to pick on somebody, coach Jim Grobe says pick on him. It was a clear message, unlike Ralph Friedgen's earlier defense of his defensive coordinator, Chris Cosh. Friedgen supported Cosh, but also said Cosh is too emotional on the sideline:

"As a coordinator, you can't do that," Friedgen said. "If you want to be an assistant coach, that's fine. But if you are going to call defenses, you have to be, 'What's the personnel group? What's the down and distance? What is my call now?' You don't need to be going, 'Uh, uh, uh, uh', or screaming or yelling. I just can't operate like that. That is about the only criticism I have."

Pressure's on for Bowden to win

September, 30, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Five games and two losses into the season, Clemson coach Tommy Bowden is defending himself, his program, and his offensive coordinator.

 Rex Brown/Getty Images
 Tommy Bowden's Tigers haven't lived up to preseason expectations.

This, from the coach who just got a contract extension and was the overwhelming preseason favorite to win the program's first ACC title since 1991.

"We're the team to beat," senior safety Michael Hamlin said this summer. "We've got nothing but weapons."

Problem is, the staff didn't quite seem to know what to do with them last weekend in a 20-17 home loss to Maryland.

I was there. I saw what happened in the first quarter. In fact, it will be difficult to forget. Clemson ran the ball against Maryland as effortlessly as you and I walk out the front door.

The first play of the game was an 11-yard run by James Davis, off the left tackle. The second play of the game was a 12-yard run by Davis, this time off right tackle. The sixth play of the drive was C.J. Spiller, around the left end for 18 yards.

But on third-and-three from Maryland's 9-yard line, they threw it -- an incomplete, out-of-bounds pass, and that otherwise impressive drive ended in a field goal.

On the following possession they figured it out. Seven of nine plays were runs, and a nine-play, 95-yard drive was capped with a 35-yard touchdown run by Spiller, who ran off left tackle and around the end.

Clemson 10, Maryland 0.

They should have done it all game. Over and over. In the first half Davis and Spiller combined for 21 carries and 193 yards. But in the second half, they had 10 carries and 31 yards. Total.

Bowden's answer as to why they didn't get more second-half carries after the game was, "I just don't think you can go out there and run the ball up and down the field and just move it and score at will when you play good teams."

We're not talking about the USC defense, or even Virginia Tech. We're talking about Maryland, a program whose defensive coordinator has faced scrutiny since the day he arrived in College Park and hasn't had a defense finish better than ninth in total defense or 10th in rushing defense. The Terps entered the Clemson game ranked 11th in the ACC in total defense, allowing 391.2 yards per game.

Did Chris Cosh's halftime adjustment from a three-man front to a four-man front with more even spacing in the second half make a difference? Sure. They loaded the box, it's going to be tougher to run. But when you've got two 2,000-yard rushers on your roster, they're going to get some yards if you give them the ball.

"If you look at the penalties and when you got them -- I don't know," Bowden told reporters. "Y'all might call plays differently, but I've done it for a long time. And there's not much more we could have done."

Well, that's a problem, because even with his contract extension, the Tigers are going to have to do a lot more this season in order for Bowden to get another chance at falling below expectations.

Terps defense avoids being 'embarrassed'

September, 27, 2008
AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain
Maryland's defense recovered from a disappointing first half to shut down Clemson's offensive attack in the last two quarters.

Posted by's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- The only good news for the Maryland defense at halftime against Clemson on Saturday was simple: It couldn't get any worse.

"We just probably played the worst football we could possibly play in the first half and coach came in at halftime and they weren't exactly yelling at us or pointing the finger or anything, but he just flat and simple, he was like, 'You guys are playing your worst football imaginable and you're only losing by 11 points,'" defensive end Dean Muhtadi said. "That kind of got the buzz started for us because everybody started realizing, 'Wow, we couldn't play any worse and it's pretty close.'"

The was exactly the message defensive coordinator Chris Cosh said he tried to relay in the locker room.

Clemson came out in the first quarter and bulldozed through Cosh's defense. The Tigers had four first downs in their first 10 plays. They got even better on their second possession, earning five first downs on nine plays. By the end of the half, the Tigers had racked up 17 first downs and 260 yards of total offense, 195 of which were on the ground.

"We were starting to get embarrassed, and that's the biggest thing," defensive end Jeremy Navarre said. "We didn't want to get embarrassed in front of all these people. ... They were getting a lot of rushing yards already and we wanted to shut them down."

But they couldn't, and Maryland seemed doomed. Yet somehow, Clemson only led 17-6 at halftime.

Cosh made adjustments, though, and switched from a three-man front to a four-man front. He went to a more basic defense, tried to use the tackles more and solidified the inside. It worked.

Clemson running back C.J. Spiller had 93 yards in the first half and five in the second. James Davis had 100 rushing yards in the first half and 26 in the second.

"That's the thing we sold them on in the first half, is we played poorly, really bad, and we're only down by [11]," Cosh said. "It could be worse. Imagine if we only do it halfway, or something positive, we can hang in and win this."

Clemson hadn't been held scoreless in the second half since Sept. 29, 2007, against Georgia Tech. They were successful on 4 of 12 third-down conversions, and Cullen Harper was stuffed on a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-one in the fourth quarter, ending the Tigers' final possession.

"It was huge," Navarre said. "It's frustrating for us because we know how good we can be. How many teams can play that way, the way we played in the first half and still beat Clemson? There aren't many teams that can do that. For us to still come out and make plays like that after we played such a bad first half really shows a lot of character."

Halftime report: Clemson 17, Maryland 6

September, 27, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- As Maryland headed into its locker room trailing 17-6 at the half, freshman defensive tackle A.J. Francis stopped at the 50-yard line, knelt down and said a quick prayer.
At this point, prayer might be the Terps' best option.

Maryland is making Clemson look like, well, like the No. 9 team in the country. You remember, how everyone thought the Tigers would look heading into that Alabama game? Right.

The Tigers look hungry. They look tough. They are playing physical, despite what defensive coordinator Vic Koenning said earlier this week (or maybe because of it).

Maryland looks disoriented. It is.

Defensive coordinator Chris Cosh is going to have a hard time explaining this one. James Davis and C.J. Spiller are having their way with his defense and will both have well over 100 rushing yards before the game is over. Davis already has 100. They're throwing it just to amuse themselves, because there's certainly no need to at this point.

Clemson punter Jimmy Maners must be so bored. They've only needed him once. The Tigers have 14 first downs to Maryland's three. They have 260 yards of total offense to the Terps' 93. They've controlled the clock.

This is not a game where turnovers are important. Heck, Clemson handed it to Maryland twice and the Terps couldn't get in the end zone. They couldn't ask for more -- one pass even bounced off a receiver's back and into the hands of Ronnie Tyler for a lucky first down.

Maryland's offensive line is overrated and underperforming. The Terps have come within inches of the end zone and couldn't score a touchdown.

Francis has the right idea. It's going to take a miracle for Maryland to win this one if it comes out and plays the same way in the second half.

What we learned: Week 3

September, 14, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

With three teams off this week -- Miami, Boston College and Wake Forest -- there weren't many questions answered and just one true surprise -- Maryland.

The Terps' upset of Cal was the lone shocker, although UNC's road win against Rutgers was also impressive. Florida State did what it was supposed to do, expectations were low for Virginia without its starting quarterback, and Clemson continued to shake the ghost of Alabama. Duke beating Navy wasn't exactly an upset if you've been paying attention, and the featured game between Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech could have gone either way.

There were still a few things to be gleaned, though, from the weekend:

1. Maryland can stop the run -- The Terps had to replace six starters on defense heading into the season, and defensive coordinator Chris Cosh has faced some scrutiny during his past two seasons in College Park. Saturday, though, the front seven looked impressive. Yes, Cal might have been snoozing through the first three quarters since it was playing a 9 a.m. game in its home time zone. And Pac-10 leading rusher Jahvid Best wasn't the same after he took a hard, sharp hit in the second quarter from cornerback Kevin Barnes. But the Terps held the Golden Bears to just 38 yards on 23 carries one week after Cal rushed for 391 yards in a 66-3 romp of Washington State. Maryland also recorded five sacks.

2. Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech will live and die by their quarterbacks' legs -- All afternoon, the duo of Josh Nesbitt and Tyrod Taylor got their respective teams out of jams with their shiftiness. Both are working behind struggling offensive lines and can make things happen on their own. They looked like mirror images of each other, neither throwing the ball more than 14 times. The Hokies are in dire need of playmakers on offense, and even lined up cornerback Victor "Macho" Harris at wideout to find one. Georgia Tech is still working out the fundamentals and technique of Paul Johnson's offense, but the main problem could be its line, save for veteran Andrew Gardner.

3. UNC reasserted itself as a legitimate contender for the Coastal Division -- The Tar Heels were picked to finish second in the division behind the Hokies, but didn't look much like a contender in their season opener against McNeese State. Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech didn't exactly play stellar football on Saturday night, but North Carolina looked impressive in all three phases of the game against Rutgers. Quarterback T.J. Yates threw three touchdown passes, Hakeem Nicks caught two of them, and the defense intercepted four passes. Freshman Jay Wooten also made three field goals, making for a complete game. It was a significant improvement from Week 1.

4. Clemson receiver Jacoby Ford is emerging from Aaron Kelly's shadow -- Tommy Bowden said the staff intended to get Ford a significant amount of touches against NC State based on a strong week of practice, and they made good on their plan. Ford, finally healthy, translated his best week of practice onto the field and was the Tigers' top playmaker. He had two carries for 48 yard and caught six passes for a touchdown and a team-high 106 yards. There's a good possibility this trend will continue.

5. It's official: There's little, if any, hope for Virginia and NC State -- Expectations were low to begin with, but this is bad. Virginia has had problems on and off the field, and NC State hasn't scored an offensive touchdown against a BCS team in 13 straight quarters, dating back to 2007. Both teams have had quarterback issues, and NC State has been plagued with injuries, but that doesn't explain things like a missed extra point or the missed 26-yard field goal. Virginia's defense gave up 506 yards to Connecticut and NC State managed 288 yards against a Clemson defense that has allowed 423 yards per game this season. Since neither team has shown significant improvement in the first few weeks, why should we expect any in the next few?