- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 5, 2003

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen long has been recognized as one of the nation’s most innovative offensive coaches, so guess what?

His Terrapins are winning with defense — and you won’t hear the Fridge complaining.

Maryland captured its fourth straight victory yesterday, beating Clemson 21-7 before 51,545 at Byrd Stadium as its ninth-ranked defense held the Tigers to just 10 yards rushing, including minus-14 in the first half. Maryland twice stopped Clemson on fourth-and-short, and the Tigers converted just six of 18 third downs.

“Every week we’re doing something spectacular, whether coming up with a big play or [stopping opponents on] fourth-and-short,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “We’re trying to start a tradition of shutouts every game. Unfortunately, they came up with a big play [for a touchdown].”

Maryland scored its second fewest points in Friedgen’s 25 victories and the least in regulation. But it didn’t matter, because the Terps were just one broken play away from getting their second shutout.

Maryland’s seventh-ranked secondary atoned for sporadic breakdowns with big plays, including safety Madieu Williams’ interception with 7:16 remaining that ended the Tigers’ momentum after they moved 48 yards from their 1. Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst finished 22 of 45 for 320 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, but the Tigers rarely seized the momentum.

“It was upsetting that we would squander a shutout over one play,” cornerback Domonique Foxworth said, “but it makes us feel good that the only way they can score is a 70-yard touchdown.”

Maryland (4-2, 1-1 ACC) will play host to Duke (2-3, 0-2) on Saturday before having an off date Oct.18.

Oddly, the Terps’ offense both flourished and vanished against Clemson (3-2, 1-1). Maryland dominated early, disappeared for nearly half the game and then controlled the ball in the fourth quarter. The Terps threw just five passes in the second half while running 22 times.

The Terps rushed for only 134 yards, their fewest during the winning streak. However, Maryland controlled the clock in the second half by running effectively. Running back Bruce Perry gained only 13 yards on his first 13 carries before consecutive 8-yard gains. Perry finished with 33 yards on 17 carries and Josh Allen with 65 on 16.

“We got into a sputter,” Friedgen said. “We had a couple of penalties and kind of lost some momentum. We made some poor throws, poor decisions. … We’re a team that needs to stay on schedule offensively. We self-destructed more than anything else.”

Quarterback Scott McBrien’s three touchdowns passes were tempered by two fumbles. Still, the senior turned in one of his better efforts downfield, completing 14 of 27 for 204 yards. McBrien also showed increased confidence on option plays with eight runs, including a third-down conversion.

Maryland scored on its first two drives for a 14-0 lead with 13:32 remaining in the half. McBrien completed touchdown passes of 25 yards to Steve Suter and 10 to Rich Parson while completing six of his first seven for 80 yards.

“That’s the way I like our offense to look like, because we had a good mix of the run and pass,” Friedgen said.

Suter overcame a tackler at the 5 on a crossing route for a 7-0 lead even though he wasn’t expecting the pass.

“I thought we were going to go to Latrez [Harrison], but I came out of my cut and Scott was looking at me,” Suter said. “I’ll take six points.”

However, Maryland missed a chance to seemingly seal the game and then permitted a 70-yard touchdown pass for Clemson to close within 14-7 with 2:33 remaining in the first half.

The Terps regained possession at their 49 with 4:28 left, but a holding penalty negated a 24-yard reception by Perry and forced Maryland to punt. Clemson needed only two plays for receiver Derrick Hamilton to score on a 70-yard pass play that was largely an open-field scramble.

Defenses long dominated with both teams combining for 14 straight failed third-down conversions until late in the third quarter when Perry managed a short run. Receiver Derrick Fenner then atoned for a 44-yard drop with a 69-yard touchdown catch for a 21-7 lead with 2:43 left in the third quarter.

“I felt I had to do something to make up for [the drop] so I made the big play,” Fenner said. “The defender knocked me out of bounds, and I came back in and stayed focused and caught the pass.”

Said McBrien: “If Derrick has a step on his man, he’ll get separation. I saw it on the first pass. He dropped it, but he came back. I saw it again, and he made the play.”

Notes — Suter is reconsidering surgery on his torn knee meniscus after “dramatic” improvement. He had been expected to miss two weeks following an operation tomorrow. He’ll meet with team officials today to decide. … Harrison left in the third quarter with a concussion after a team-high four catches. Linebacker Shawne Merriman played with a hand injury.

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