Terps football vs. No. 9 Clemson: Previewing the game

October 25, 2013

(Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

THE INFO

Who: Maryland (5-2, 1-2 ACC) vs. No. 9 Clemson (6-1, 4-1).

When: 3:30 p.m.

Where: Byrd Stadium.

TV: ESPN.

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

Satellite radio: Sirius channel 85, XM channel 85.

Coaches: Terps – Randy Edsall (third season, 11-20). Tigers – Dabo Swinney (sixth season, 46-22 overall).

Series: Sixty-second matchup all-time. Clemson leads 33-26-2 with a three-game winning streak.

THE SCRIPT

Had Virginia’s last-second 42-yard field goal not sailed wide right against on Oct. 12, the Maryland football team would be stuck in a three-game losing streak. But framed another way, the Terrapins enter Saturday’s matchup against ninth-ranked Clemson still at 5-2, still one win away from bowl eligibility and, despite an exhaustive injury report that may prove otherwise, still kicking and screaming. Maryland’s unwavering confidence in whichever player – inexperienced or experienced, young or old – trots out onto Byrd Stadium will be tested against the Tigers, who also enter with something to prove. There are two real distinct ways to frame this narrative. Either Maryland, the fighting underdogs desperate for a victory, fights its way past a reeling Clemson team stunned by last weekend’s massive blowout loss to Florida State; or the Tigers, salty and seeking a punching bag, find one in a Terps bunch riddled by ailments. More likely, both teams bring their best to Byrd Stadium, but will Maryland’s cavalcade of backups play spoiler? Maybe forget spoiler – can the Terps make this game challenging?

THE QUESTIONS

1) Match the intensity? Clemson is furious after the 51-14 drubbing in Death Valley at the hands of quarterback Jameis Winston and the now-No. 3 Seminoles, and is looking to rebound in a big way on the road. Maryland will need to match Clemson’s intensity – if not exceed it – to keep the Tigers from kicking down the door and crushing everything inside. With a bye week facing the Terps on the other end of Saturday’s game, they’ll want to avoid the type of sluggish start that doomed them at Wake Forest last Saturday.

2) Contain Watkins? For the second straight week, Maryland freshman Will Likely will be tasked with stopping an opposing team’s top wide receiver, this time Clemson’s Sammy Watkins. Expect Maryland to emerge in nickel packages again, with Alvin Hill ushered onto the boundary and Likely manning the slot. Watkins ranks third in the ACC in most receiving categories. If Maryland hopes to limit Clemson’s offense, keeping Watkins in check would be a good place to start.

3) Overcome the injuries? Talk as they might about “next man up,” but the Terps have never been this banged up under Edsall, not even during the ephemeral Shawn Petty era last season. With starters now missing at quarterback, running back, tight end, wide receiver (two), linebacker (two), cornerback (two) and safety, essentially half of Maryland’s starting lineup will be manned by backups. Some players have more experience than others, but all will be thrust into the deep end against Clemson and forced to swim. The injuries will continue to be a crutch, but at some point the Terps will need to exist with this lineup, or at least something similar.

THE STATS

Minus-7: Maryland’s turnover margin since ACC play began.

17: Sacks by the Terps in four nonconference games.

2: Sacks in three ACC games.

THE QUOTES

“At least I kind of feel like what we’re doing in practice during the week, we’re not losing guys in practice. We’re just losing guys in games. If that’s going to happen, that’s when you want it to happen. A lot of those things, you can’t control. The number of fractures and things along those lines, we haven’t had the…I hate to say it. Then we’ll get him. Some of the things we had a year ago from an injury standpoint. It’s a collision sport. You just take a look every week in the NFlL and how many guys are going down. Even take a look in college. It’s unfortunate, but like I said we haven’t lost guys during the week, so at least that tells me we’re practicing the right way in terms of what we want to do. We go full pads on Tuesday, helmet/shoulder pads on Wednesday/Thursday. The games are where it’s all, more than two-thirds of the injuries are coming just from the games.” – Edsall.

“The injury list is getting pretty long. Maybe my hair’s what’s bad luck.” – Maryland linebacker Cole Farrand.

THE SONG OF SATURDAY

“The Same Old Song” by Four Tops.

MORE ON MARYLAND-CLEMSON

Remember, a football game is 60 minutes.

So many injuries for Maryland.

Locksley talks about offense’s struggles.

Rowe ready to go.

Turnover creation still a problem for Terps defense.

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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Alex Prewitt · October 24, 2013