CLEMSON, S.C. – Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen spoke this week of his fondness for playing at Clemson, recalling the exciting crowds and memorable games hes been a part of over the years.
Saturdays 20-17 victory at Memorial Stadium might have been the best of them all.
The Terrapins overcame an 11-point halftime deficit, scoring two touchdowns in the second half while silencing a once-powerful Clemson rushing game to escape Death Valley for the third time in their last four visits and established themselves as a contender in the ACCs Atlantic Division in the process.
Friedgen said this could be a defining game for the Terps (4-1, 1-0 ACC), who had won two straight to regain the appearance of a competent team. Yet virtually nothing went right early against the No. 20 Tigers (3-2, 1-1), the preseason conference favorites.
An inability to stop Davis and Spiller was a significant portion of the problems early on. The Terps hoped to prevent both from attacking the perimeter, a place Maryland traditionally struggles to defend. Instead, both tailbacks eviscerated the Terps with runs between the tackles.
Davis had 101 of his yards at halftime, while Spiller had managed 93. Both had touchdown scampers of at least 35 yards before the break, rumbling unscathed through the center of the field against the seemingly helpless Terps.
It was only two weeks earlier when Maryland limited a vaunted California rushing game to 38 yards, and it seemed plausible the Terps could repeat the performance. Instead, Davis and Spiller quickly established they could repeat their twin 100-yard games during last years 30-17 Clemson victory at Byrd Stadium.
Maryland tightened things in the second half when wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Beys 75-yard reverse – the Terps longest run since 2003 – set up Torrey Smiths 6-yard touchdown catch from Chris Turner.
The Maryland defense stiffened in the second half, and a field position melee ensued. Eventually, the Terps took over at the Clemson 45, and three receptions by Danny Oquendo set up a 1-yard scoring jaunt with 10:25 left to give Maryland a 20-17 lead.
On the next possession, Maryland stuffed Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper on a fourth down, then ran out the final 5:36 to secure the victory.
Given the first half, it was a result that was difficult to believe.
It was actually implausible that Clemson only led 17-6 at the midpoint. The Terps were certainly helped when Jacoby Ford fumbled away a punt and Adrian Moten, playing despite a wrist injury, recovered a wayward lateral from Harper.
Both miscues left Maryland with possession in Tigers territory, but the Terps twice settled for Obi Egekeze field goals.
The Terps offense managed little early as well. Tailback DaRel Scott, so explosive in three nonconference games, ran for only 19 yards on 11 carries in the first half. Turners passes werent especially sharp, but the inability of Marylands receivers to haul in catchable throws hindered him further.
But the Terps, who so often display multiple personalities, did so again in the second half and surged to their third consecutive victory and only their second win in a conference opener in the last seven years.