Hosting a top-10 team when you are a 2-3 team, generally, you don’t expect to keep it close. Maryland (2-4, 1-2 ACC) not only kept it close against #8 Clemson (7-0, 4-0 ACC), but had an 18-point lead early in the second half. Unfortunately, the Terps couldn’t keep up the momentum – or stop Clemson – at the end of the game. Clemson was stopped on their first drive off the second half but went on to score on their next five drives and returned a kickoff for touchdown before running out the clock.
While there are no moral victories to be had here, fans can take solace in the fact that they may have found an answer at quarterback in C.J. Brown. Brown finished with 177 yards passing (17-of-35 ) with three touchdowns, and had 162 yards rushing and a touchdown. Brown, who despite a great game, was upset afterwards saying that he was disappointed they couldn’t execute down the stretch.
Brown supplanted last year’s ACC Rookie of the Year Danny O’Brien, and had the Terps on the verge of victory. Unfortunately, the Terps defense couldn’t get enough stops, and put all the pressure on the first-time starter. The defense was on the field a lot, although with the quick strike offense Clemson has you wouldn’t know it.
Maryland ran into a buzz-saw in the form of Clemson Freshman phenom Sammy Watkins. The jack-of-all-trades receiver set the school’s new all-purpose yardage record with 345 yards (207 return, 105 receiving and 33 rushing) to go along with three touchdowns. To put Watkins game into perspective, Tavon Austin had 243 yards from scrimmage in the West Virginia game against the Terps. Keep in mind, Austin accumulated his yards on 2 more touches than Watkins. His speed is off-the-charts, and his vision and balance are just as incredible.
The defense had its hands full containing the aforementioned Watkins and RB Andre Ellington. The task was made tougher as the Terps were without their three starting linebackers, in addition to two defensive lineman and a safety. LB’s Demetrius Hartsfield (out), Kenny Tate (doubtful) and Darin Drakeford (questionable) all missed the game and were replaced by freshmen. The trio of Alex Twine, Lorne Goree and Mario Rowson performed admirably given the circumstances, and in Goree’s part led the team in tackles (12) and had a sack and a tackle for loss.
Defensive tackle Joe Vellano, who led the team with 20 tackles last week, put in another impressive performance tonight with 11 tackles. Despite the revolving door at defensive tackle next to him, Vellano has been phenomenal game in and game out.
So what exactly does this loss mean for the Terps and their season? For starters, I think it’s too soon to write off Danny O’Brien. Edsall wasn’t quick to praise Brown, but instead went to the oft-used “We need to check the tape” when describing Brown’s play. The Terps have played three top-20 opponents close and could have won all three games. Defensively, the Terps are in trouble. They aren’t deep on defense and we saw that tonight as the young linebackers got tired and needed a breather.
Offensively, the need to find an identity. The team was built around Danny O’Brien and his skill set. However, it now looks like Brown seems to be the choice. The quick slants and screen passes seem to be in his wheelhouse, but Brown just cannot throw a good deep ball right now. Maybe he can practice it more, but it’s not something you can count on down the road. It makes the team predictable and working in more option runs can help that. We saw it tonight where they added in the wrinkle of using Wide Receivers as pitch men.
Above all else, this team needs to get healthy. When you are missing an All-American, and two guys who were playing at an All-conference level (Hartsfield and Robinson), on defense it’s going to be tough sledding.
Next week the Terps will travel to Tallahassee and face the Florida State Seminoles (3-3, 1-2 ACC). It was just announced the game will be at 3:30, likely on regional networks only. The Terps will need a win to take a step towards becoming bowl eligible. With a loss, the Terps will have to win four out of five just to reach the minimum 6 wins. A tough task, no doubt.
- Injuries: Potential injuries to look out for: WR Kevin Dorsey (Unknown – Edsall declined comment) and LB/DB Avery Graham (Leg – Edsall declined comment). Edsall did say that it seemed like players may be out for a few weeks, and surgery may be necessary. However, he did not mention who, and how long for anyone.
- With his 162 yards rushing tonight C.J. Brown set the new Maryland rushing record for a Quarterback, surpassing Dennis O’Hara’s 139 yards from 1969.
- Not shockingly, Maryland rushed for a season-high 291 yards as a team tonight, the most since Maryland’s 297 in the Military Bowl last year against East Carolina.
- Maryland started five freshmen on defense tonight, the most on one side of the ball since November 20, 1993 when the Terps had six freshmen start.
- With an interception returned for touchdown tonight, Cameron Chism had his second of the season, making him only the third Terrapin in history to post two in a season. Chism joins Curome Cox (2002) and Bob Haley (1966).
- The Terps have used a different starting lineup on defense in every game this season.
- The 101 points combined tonight are the most in an ACC game this season, it was also the most ever in the Maryland-Clemson series.
- Quote of the Night goes to Davin Meggett on if there were any moral victories to take away from tonight: “You either win or you don’t, she either pregnant or she not”.
Follow Brendan Darr on twitter: @BrendanDarr1067