Maryland football vs. Clemson: Tigers overcome miscues, wear down Terps


Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd breaks through and finds the end zone for a touchdown at Byrd Stadium. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)
October 26, 2013

The players jumped about the locker room and yelled themselves hoarse because maybe, finally, things were leaning their way. Battered by injuries, the Maryland football team still emerged from halftime of Saturday’s game against No. 9 Clemson with boundless energy. The Terrapins were down more than a touchdown at that moment, but for the first time in weeks, they felt in control.

“I never thought we were going to lose that game,” safety Sean Davis said later. “It just sucks. It hurts right now.”

Maryland started the game with reserves playing at quarterback, running back, two wide receiver spots and tight end. The Tigers, meanwhile, rolled into Byrd Stadium still seething from their humiliating home loss to Florida State the weekend before. And while the end result — a 40-27 Clemson win — shocked no one, the blowout many anticipated never materialized. But the way it unfolded stung the Terps just the same. Maybe even more.

“You’re thinking things are going your way,” linebacker Matt Robinson said. “We just weren’t able to get it done.”

Maryland (5-3, 1-3 ACC) will enter its second bye week of the season kicking itself — and justifiably so. Clemson emerged listless, throwing plenty of punches but never landing a knockout blow. The Terps entered intermission down just 16-7, holding the Tigers’ vaunted spread offense to field goals on three straight possessions after it entered the Maryland red zone.

The script flipped in the second half. The Tigers fumbled twice in the first 3 minutes 5 seconds of the third quarter, both times deep in their own territory, but Maryland only managed a pair of 41-yard Brad Craddock field goals in response. After the second fumble, which Robinson recovered, the outside linebacker felt everything was coming together.

“We got this,” he remembered thinking. “We just have to keep going, keep going. Unfortunately we didn’t.”

With C.J. Brown sidelined, Maryland quarterback Caleb Rowe was again shaky in his third career start with two interceptions and a number of other errant throws despite a slowed-down Maryland offense designed to alleviate pressure on the backups. Take away his 71-yard touchdown pass to Levern Jacobs — which came on a broken play — and he completed just 18 of 44 passes for 211 yards. At one point in the fourth quarter, he was bogged down in a 2-for-19 stretch.

Yet despite all the injuries and failed chances, Maryland was down only 19-13 in the fourth quarter when backup running back Albert Reid — starting in place of Brandon Ross (shoulder) — lost the football in traffic and gave the Tigers field position even they couldn’t squander.

When Boyd plowed into the end zone from five yards out, at once matching the ACC career touchdown mark and doubling up Maryland at 26-13, whatever hope was left at Byrd Stadium slowly leaked out the gates, a third loss in four ACC games all but locked up with little solace to extract.

“I told the guys afterwards, we’re going to accomplish the goals we want to accomplish this year,” Coach Randy Edsall said. “We’re going to come up in the last third of the season. We’re going to accomplish what we need to accomplish regardless of injuries or anything else. I know the players are determined to do that. The coaching staff is determined to do that. That’s all part of the building process of what we need to do with this program.”

Rowe found his groove too late, completing fourth-quarter touchdown passes to Amba Etta-Tawo and Nigel King. But those moments felt like empty celebrations, too late for Maryland to mount any legitimate comeback. After each score, fireworks exploded above Gossett Team House, the smoke wafting toward the Clemson bench. The Terps had once felt so close to breaking through, but by now the bell was mercifully ringing.

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