Maryland football vs. Clemson: Previewing the game

November 9, 2012

(John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

THE INFO

Who: Maryland (4-5, 2-3 ACC) at Clemson (8-1, 5-1).

When: 3:30 p.m.

Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson, S.C.

TV: ESPNU

DMV radio: WTEM (980 AM), WJZ (105.7 FM).

Satellite radio: XM Channel 192, Sirius Channel 136.

Coaches: Terps – Randy Edsall (Second season, 6-15). Tigers – Dabo Swinney (Fifth season, 37-20)

Series: Clemson leads 32-26-2.

THE SCRIPT

The Terps hobble in to Death Valley with nine players having suffered season-ending injuries, down to their fifth-string quarterback and missing two of their biggest offensive weapons in Stefon Diggs and Wes Brown. Clemson, meanwhile, is gunning for an at-large BCS bid and playing like it has something to prove. Quarterback Tajh Boyd has a bevy of weapons in Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins, and the Tigers have rolled ever since losing to Florida State on Sept. 22. Maryland’s defense took a big hit with the loss of linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield, but putting pressure on Boyd will still be at a premium, specifically from linebacker Darin Drakeford on the outside and lineman Joe Vellano up front. Maryland enters as heavy underdogs but hasn’t lost faith, even with the injuries depleting the roster, which says plenty about the mentality instilled in this team.   

THE QUESTIONS

1. Petty’s time … again? With one game and more practices under his belt, true freshman quarterback Shawn Petty gets the call again for Maryland. He missed some early reads against Georgia Tech on play-action that could have set a different tone, so expect the Terps to take some shots to Levern Jacobs and Nigel King down the field early. Limiting mistakes and turnovers will be key for the Eleanor Roosevelt product, as will keeping a level lead in Death Valley.

2. Who can stop Tajh Boyd? Boyd has rolled through ACC defenses over the past two weeks, tying program records with five touchdowns each against Wake Forest and Duke. The junior ranks eighth nationally in total offense (336.67 yards per game), 16th in passing yards  (297.78) and fourth in passing efficiency (170.18). Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is sixth nationally in receiving yards per game (115.22), while Sammy Watkins is, similar to Stefon Diggs and West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, a constant big-play threat from the slot. Maryland’s secondary will face a stiff challenge this weekend, and will have to step up to avoid an embarrassment.    

3. Can the Terps breathe in Death Valley? How well the Terps manage the clock and execute on special teams could easily dictate whether Maryland will challenge the Tigers or get blown out. Expect Petty to consistently let the play clock run down to around five seconds, while punter Nathan Renfro will need to step up to allow the defense some breathing room. The Terps performed well above expectations when visiting West Virginia, a similarly hostile environment, earlier this season, but how will they fare with a depleted roster against an extremely motivated Clemson team?  

THE STAT 

1: Demetrius Hartsfield’s rank in career tackles among active ACC players (338), which will be sorely missed on Maryland’s defense 

12: Tackles against Clemson in 2011 by L.A. Goree, the linebacker who will replace Hartsfield in the starting lineup.

69.3: Percentage of Maryland’s all-purpose yardage gained this season by players who will miss the Clemson game. Diggs, Brown and Marcus Leak rank first, second and third, respectively, in that category.

THE QUOTES

“A lot of the games, it’s frustrating to watch the film. You can see that we’re beating ourselves. We have the talent to do it. It’s more what you’re not doing rather than what the other team’s doing.” – Cornerback Jeremiah Johnson on Maryland’s defense.

“Tajh Boyd is the leader of this football team, and not just the offense. He’s the leader of this football team, and he’s earned that through his play, through his work ethic. Guys have great respect for him.” — Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris.

THE SONG OF SATURDAY

Marching On” by One Republic. 

THE POLL

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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