ACC: Clemson 0805

Clemson continues to underachieve under Bowden

September, 27, 2008
9/27/08
7:27
PM ET
 
 Rex Brown/Getty Images
 Cullen Harper was 15-of-22 for 151 yards against Maryland.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- They started to leave before the game was over, a steady stream of downtrodden fans who trudged up the very same hill the Clemson players had stood on before the game, beating their chests wildly.

Now, the Tigers can join their fans in that uphill climb. That is, if the fans are still with them.

The secret has been out now for five weeks: Clemson is not the No. 9-ranked team many thought it was heading into the preseason. The expectations were too high, and those within the program will admit it. The one team shouldering an entire conference's hopes of having a representative win the big games on the national stage already has two losses and it's not even October.

But Clemson, with all of its talented playmakers, is still capable of more than it has shown -- even with a depleted offensive line -- and the Tigers' 20-17 loss is just the latest evidence of the program's ability to underachieve.

Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said it wasn't what Maryland did. Running back James Davis said it's not a question of talent. And offensive coordinator Rob Spence said it wasn't for a lack of effort. Quarterback Cullen Harper said it wasn't the game plan.

Then what, on Earth, is the problem with Clemson?

(Read full post)

Terps defense avoids being 'embarrassed'

September, 27, 2008
9/27/08
6:05
PM ET
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 ESPN.com'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."

Fickle Terps separating themselves in the Atlantic Division

September, 27, 2008
9/27/08
5:42
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Less than halfway through the season, Maryland has managed to knock off two ranked teams and become one of the top two teams to beat in the Atlantic Division.

That's right, Maryland.

The same team that lost to Middle Tennessee.

The same team that needed three quarterbacks to beat Delaware by a touchdown.

The same team that played abysmal defense and got pushed around like practice dummies in the first half against Clemson.

Game to game and often half to half, Maryland's identity has been its inconsistency. And yet here the Terps are, sitting at 4-1 and heading into Charlottesville to face a bad Virginia team. After finally putting it all together in the second half on Saturday for a 20-17 upset of No. 19-ranked Clemson in a sold-out Memorial Stadium, the Terps proved they are capable of making a run for the Atlantic Division title if they can play to their potential for four quarters.

If.

"It's very frustrating and very exciting on the same hand because we have a chance to be very, very good," said offensive coordinator James Franklin. "But we have to be more consistent in how we play, we've got to be more consistent in how we prepare, and hopefully the light is going to go on. Hopefully the last two wins that we've had and this one, hopefully that's going to give us some momentum and this big win in a very tough situation, a very tough environment, hopefully that gets us over the edge."

(Read full post)

Quick notes from Clemson-Maryland

September, 27, 2008
9/27/08
4:55
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson's coordinators looked forlorn in the hallway outside the locker room, but the players seemed to take the loss in stride. Maryland players took their time lingering with family and friends outside Memorial Stadium. More to come from them. 

Meanwhile, here are a few quick notes following Maryland's 20-17 win:

  • Maryland is 4-1 for the first time since its 2001 ACC championship season.
  • The Terps now have a four-game win streak against ranked opponents.
  • Ralph Friedgen is 5-3 against Clemson.
  • It was the first time Clemson was held scoreless in the second half since the Georgia Tech game on Sept. 29, 2007.

It's official: Clemson falls

September, 27, 2008
9/27/08
3:14
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- It's official. Clemson has laid two eggs this season, losing 20-17 to Maryland on Saturday. At home. And, yes, Clemson fans are booing.

Maryland's defense was the difference in the second half, finally shutting down Clemson's playmakers. This marks the second time in the Terps' past two trips to Death Valley they have come away with a win. Neither team looked all that impressive, and both made costly mistakes, but Maryland somehow got this win.

The Clemson fans are booing as they file out. More later ... heading down to the locker rooms now.

3Q update: Clemson 17, Maryland 13

September, 27, 2008
9/27/08
2:37
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Meet Productive Maryland. It's one of two personalities this team has. (The other being Ineffective Maryland). We've seen it from game to game, and now we're seeing it half to half.

Clearly the Terps made adjustment at the half, and they have slowed Clemson down in the third quarter, but Maryland has also slowed itself down with costly penalties at rather inopportune times.

Bottom line: Clemson is the better football team, and its secondary has been outstanding, but the Tigers are winning by just four points at home. At times, this has been a very quiet 80,000.

Halftime report: Clemson 17, Maryland 6

September, 27, 2008
9/27/08
1:45
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com'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.

1Q update: Clemson 10, Maryland 0

September, 27, 2008
9/27/08
12:48
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson is plowing through Maryland's defense as easily as if it were their pregame walk-through. The Terps are making James Davis and C.J. Spiller look like super heroes, and had it not been for Jacoby Ford's costly fumble, Maryland wouldn't be anywhere near the end zone right now.

The Terps are putting no pressure on Cullen Harper at all. Meanwhile, Clemson's secondary is smothering Maryland's receivers.

Ralph Friedgen made a big mistake putting his defense on the field first. Friedgen has not elected to receive since Sept. 24, 2005, at Wake Forest, and it wasn't smart in this case. The defense is this team's weakness, and Clemson took advantage of it early.

Maryland gets some help back on defense

September, 27, 2008
9/27/08
11:48
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- It looks like Maryland will get some help on its defensive line with a surprise comeback by defensive end Mack Frost, who was out with a knee injury last week and listed as doubtful coming into this game.

It doesn't look like Frost is going to start, but even a minimal contribution from this starter would be an edge against Clemson's young line. He's one of four players on the Terps' roster from South Carolina.

Tigers get 5 a.m. wake-up call at team hotel

September, 27, 2008
9/27/08
10:32
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Someone just happened to pull the fire alarm in Clemson's team hotel in Anderson this morning.

If the Tigers look like they're sleepwalking in the first quarter, now you know why.

Greetings from Clemson

September, 27, 2008
9/27/08
10:25
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

 

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Good morning from Death Valley, where orange balloons are netted at the bottom of "the Hill," and offensive linemen are still scooting around on their mo-peds (seriously, got behind reserve Eddie Adams on the way in). For more on the subject of Clemson's patchwork line, check out these three keys to the game:

1. Maryland's senior-laden defensive line against Clemson's injured line. The Tigers' training room has a better lineup right now. Clemson has gotten so desperate the Tigers have pulled one of their student coaches, Bobby Hutchinson, into the starting lineup.

Check out this note: According to the depth chart entering last week's game against South Carolina State, the Tigers had 19 players listed as first or second team offensive or defensive linemen and only two of them were seniors. The lone senior on the defensive line is Dorell Scott, who is in his third season as a starting defensive tackle. The Terps have all seniors, but two of them expected to start today were walk-ons four months ago.

2. The clock. In order to have a chance in this game, Maryland is going to have to use Da'Rel Scott, run the ball, and keep the Tigers' speedy playmakers off the field. Otherwise, Clemson will expose Maryland's depleted secondary. The Terps are ranked 109th in the country in pass defense, allowing 279.2 yards per game. It's not Cullen Harper who the Terps have to worry about as much as Jacoby Ford, C.J. Spiller and Aaron Kelly.

3. Clemson's veteran secondary against Maryland's improved passing game. The Tigers have scored 35 points off turnovers this season and have eight interceptions. Michael Hamlin has three of them, and is second on the team in tackles with 29. This will be the toughest defense the Terps have faced to date.

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