- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 4, 2009

Handed a blitzing opportunity in the final minute Saturday, redshirt freshman linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield knew what his Maryland teammates needed against Clemson.

In a matter of seconds, he faked inside, went outside, pounded quarterback Kyle Parker and gleefully snatched up the ball from the sod to secure Maryland’s bizarre 24-21 victory at Byrd Stadium - but only after a booth review declared it a fumble rather than a mere sack.

“I knew it was a fumble,” Hartsfield said. “I was just hoping the ref would call it a fumble. I heard the whistle, so I couldn’t really advance it, but I was just hoping they would call it a fumble because I knew if they called it a fumble, that was the end of the game.”

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It was the last of three defensive stands in the last six minutes for the Terrapins (2-3, 1-0 ACC), all required to solidify a victory Maryland badly needed after a tumultuous September left its season in peril.

A play call that Maryland could have rued ultimately set the final sequences in motion.

Maryland faced fourth-and-inches just shy of its 30-yard line while nursing a three-point edge. Conventional wisdom said punt and face absolutely no scrutiny afterward.

Coach Ralph Friedgen called timeout and consulted defensive coordinator Don Brown about his weary unit. He made up his mind. Then changed it again. And again. And yet again.

“I remember Vince Lombardi in that thing said, ‘If you can’t make six inches, you don’t deserve to win the game,’ ” Friedgen said. “We had four.”

So back out went the offense, an impressive display of faith. Quarterback Chris Turner didn’t have left tackle Bruce Campbell, who was shelved with a knee injury. Nor could he hand it to tailback Da’Rel Scott, who was lost with a broken left forearm in the third quarter and likely lost for the season.

Turner kept it himself, only to run into linebacker Kavell Conner just shy of the 30 with 5:59 left.

“Probably all the crowd was for it, too, until we didn’t get it,” Friedgen said.

No matter. The Terps simply drew up the most unlikely of stands. Clemson lost a yard on its next three plays, only for kicker Richard Jackson’s strong leg to push a 47-yard try to the right after a Maryland timeout.

Except this was Maryland, and nothing ever comes easy. Naturally, tailback Davin Meggett fumbled on the next play. The Terps’ defense sauntered back onto the field, didn’t yield a yard in three plays and watched again as Jackson missed a 48-yarder right after yet another Maryland timeout.

The final drive was more conventional, Clemson owning the middle of the field before again sputtering in the face of Tigers kryptonite - the Maryland 30. One play after Cameron Chism nearly picked off Parker, Hartsfield pounced on him to end things and finally take Friedgen off the hook.

“James wanted to go for it. The kids wanted to go for it,” Friedgen said. “I knew our defense was tired, so I went for it. I was kicking myself for doing it. I was letting my emotions get involved and not my brain. But it worked out right.”

It did in large part because the Terps pieced together 15 superb minutes on offense. Maryland relied exclusively on five offensive linemen throughout the first half, and they solidified as the Terps scored 17 points on three straight drives in the second quarter.

Turner completed 19 of 26 passes for 215 yards and a pair of first-half touchdowns for Maryland.

“Night and day,” Turner said of the difference between the results of his turnover-fest a week earlier against Rutgers and his bounceback against the Tigers.

Ultimately, it was the Maryland defense’s day. It didn’t yield a score in the second half (the Tigers’ lone touchdown came on C.J. Spiller’s 92-yard kickoff return), and it gave up more yards in the first quarter (141) than the next three combined (133).

In the process, it gave Maryland easily its biggest boost of the year and some belief that a seemingly listing ship could steady as the Terps travel deeper into conference play.

“Like we said Monday, we’re starting a new season,” center Phil Costa said. “That’s exactly what we’re doing.”

If it is a new season, it is one filled with fumbles on special teams (one for each school), stunning fourth-down decisions and unexpected twists seemingly every five minutes. Perhaps it is a second chance - one the Terps will happily take.

“A great game to watch. Not a great one to coach,” Friedgen said. “Somebody asked me was this was a tough game for you. I said, ‘Not as tough as the last two.’ ”

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