The Clemson football team left campus this afternoon for a night in a motel and to see a movie -- "North Dallas Forty."
"I hope it's funny," said Danny Ford, the Tigers' tobacco-chewing head coach. "I want 'em laughing tonight 'cause there ain't gonna be no time for smiling tomorrow.
Maryland Coach Jerry Claiborne and his Terrapins hope to keep Ford and his players grimacing rather than grinning beginning at 3:20 p.m. Saturday (WJLA-TV-7) when the two teams that played for the Atlantic Coast Conference title last November open the ACC season against one another.
"They're an impressive team," said Claiborne, who gave his players a chance to walk around "Death Valley," Clemson's infamous stadium, this afternoon. "They lost some good people but they have a lot of good young people. And their quarterback looked excellent last week."
Maryland is one of four area schools that will try to raise its record to 2-0 Saturday. Howard, a 24-17 winner over West Virginia State last week, hosts Maryland-Eastern Shore (1-1) at 1:30 p.m. at Howard Stadium; Virginia, an impressive 31-0 winner over Richmond last week, faces a much tougher test at N.C. State, and Virginia Tech, a 15-14 winner at Louisville, comes home to play Appalachian State.
Meanwhile, Navy opens it season at 2 p.m. Saturday, Navy-Marine Corps Stadium against the Citadel, which last week managed to lose to Presbyterian, 21-13. But Citadel Coach Art Baker insisted earlier this week that loss doesn't mean Navy will have a walkover this week. "If Presbyterian can get up and beat us, then there's no reason why we can't get up and beat Navy," he said.
Unlikely. The Mids, 9-3 a year ago, are missing one starter, offensive tackle Jerome Barker, but quarterback Bob Powers and Coach George Welsh's bevy of running backs are healthy and they would make it a long afternoon for the visitors.
Two of those running backs, Mike Sherlock and Steve Callahan, will alternate at tailback but, in a surprise, Sherlock will start over Callahan, the Mids' leading rusher a year ago who had eight touchdowns.
Howard will also be alternating players at a key position, with Ronald Wilson and Bryan Thomas sharing time for Coach Floyd Keith at quarterback. Wilson started last week but it was Thomas who got the Bison moving in the second half. UMES has been a Jekyll-and-Hyde team thus far, opening with an impressive 35-19 win over Bowie State, then losing to Virginia State a week ago, 29-0, thanks largely to six lost fumbles.
Dick Bestwick's Virginia team had no fumbles a week ago and will have to repeat that act if it is to upset ACC favorite N.C. State in Raleigh. The Wolfpack opened a week ago with a 34-20 win over a strong East Carolina team.
Jerry Claiborne has never lost as a visiting coach at Death Valley (3-0) but the Terrapins will have to play much better than they did in their season-opening 24-20 win over Villanova if that record is to remain intact.
"At this point in the season, mental discipline is the whole key," Maryland defensive tackle Ed Call said. "Both teams are strong, both teams are fit. The team that concentrates better will win the game."
Concentration may be a key but so will the quarterbacks. Both are inexperienced and facing their first big game as starters. Maryland's Mike Tice had some shaky moments against Villanova but the 6-foot-7 junior came up with the big play when he had to in the fourth quarter.
Clemson's Billy Lott was almost flawless in the Tigers'21-0 win over Furman, completing eight of 13 passes for 164 yards and a touchdown. The Tigers have tow proven running backs in Lester Brown and Marvin Sims to complement Lott, who prefers to run and passes off the rollout most of the time.
Brown had 101 yards and two touchdowns in 19 minutes last week and made Clemson's reconstructed offensive line look strong.
"The lines are going to be crucial in this one, even more so than than usual," said Ford. "Our kids up front have to be able to control their front. Of course, they're thinking the same thing with that big offensive line of theirs."
The Terps are missing Marlin Van Horn at middle guard, the big senior having undergone knee surgery Thursday. His spot will be taken by Mike Corvino.
Offensively, Maryland is healthy and will again look to sophomore tailback Charlie Wysocki to carry the ball a majority of the time against Clemson's defense, an underpublicized unit that may have been the key to last year's ACC championship and must do even better this year for the Tigers to remain on top.
"We know we have the depth and the experience," said all-conference linebacker Bubba Brown. "We can't sit back and wait for the offense to make the big plays this year. We have to come up with big plays ourselves. Maryland's gonna come right at us. We plan on sending them right back."
There has been talk all week on both teams about "going right at" people and the physical nature of the game. This is a grudge match. Maryland is still smarting from last year's 28-24 loss in College Park in the ACC championship contest. "They embarrassed us in our own backyard," Tice said. Clemson does not want the Terps to turn the tables in front of its fanatic orange-clad throng of supporters.
"We've tasted the honey and like it a whole lot better than vinegar," said Ford, at age 31 the youngest major college head coach in the country. "If Maryland's better than us, okay. But we're not going to go down easy on our home field."
Claiborne doesn't expect them to. "I llove coming down here to play," he said. "We just try to tell our boys that all those people are yelling for them, not at them.
"This whole week, this kind of game, is what college football's supposed to be all about."
Clemson has won 11 straight ACC games and is seeking its 400th win of all time. The Tigers won their 350th game 10 years ago here aginst Maryland, 40-0; a repeat score seems unlikely . . . Maryland leads the series, 15-11-1. Claiborne is 6-1 against Clemson . . . Clemson has the only stadium in the country with three names -- Memorial Stadium, Death Valley and Frank Howard Field.