If Red Wilson was the happiest football coach in America when his Duke team upset Clemson Saturday then Maryland's Jerry Clairborne was undoubtedly the second happiest.
Until the Blue Devil's stunning 34-17 win over the Tigers, Claiborne was faced with the task this week of convincing people -- most notably his players -- that a team with a 12-game losing streak might be capable of knocking off the Terps.
Yesterday, with Duke's lone win in six games this season as his weapon, Clairborne did his best to present his weekly, "This Week's Opponent Could Beat the Steelers' show.
Mostly he rhapsodized on Duke freshman quaterback Ben Bennett, voted the ACC offensive back of the week after he keyed the upset of Clemson. "That Bennett just ate Clemson alive," Claiborne gushed. "I just can't believe he's a freshman, he knows so much about the passing game."
On Claiborne went, talking about the great morale displayed by the Duke players on the sidelines and the speed of their running backs. "They both sub- 10 par, for the 100," he said, meaning that both run the 100 in less then 10 seconds.
Claiborne has good reason to worry that his players might take the Blue Devils lightly. The last six times these teams have met it has looked like a game between the Maryland varsity and the Maryland JV.
Last year the Terps played horribly. They won, 27-0, against a team that quit in the second quarter. After that game, Carl James, then Maryland's athletic director, a Duke graduate, commented quietly, "As an alumnus, I was embarrassed."
The Blue Devils are still losing this year but, except for the season opening 35-10 loss to East Carolina, they have not been embarrassed. They had played good teams like Auburn, South Carolina and Indiana close.
But they are weakest where Maryland is strongest -- defensing the rush. Even Claiborne,noting that they are giving up 26 points a game, had to admit, "Their weakness has been defensing the rush."
Although Wilson, the 54-year-old master of the malaprop, is still the head coach, many in Durham expect that his offensive coordinator, Steve Spurrier, may be in charge by this time next season.
Spurrier, the 1966 Heisman Trophy winner, has put imagination into the Duke offense. Last week Bennett caught a touchdown pass and against Auburn, holder Ricky Brummitt caught one on a fake field goal. The Blue Devils have seven receivers who have caught at least 11 passes. They run only when they have to.
"We know they'll be ready for us," Clairborne concluded, as he does every week. The last six times these teams have met, Duke hasn't looked ready for touch, much less tackle, football. The Blue Devils have nowhere to go but up.
Duke defensive back Dennis Tabron was named defensive player of the week by Sports Illustrated for his three interceptions and 128 yards in returns against Clemson. "I don't think he played against us last year," said Claiborne. "At least they don't have anyone on film who played like he does."
Mike Tice (hip pointer) is still questionable for Saturday. Clairborne said he may not be able to take part in contact drills this week, in which case Boy Milkovich will start. Milkovich started against Duke last year, threw two interceptions then Tice came on to lead the victory . . . Offensive tackle Scott Fanz is also questionable with a sore shoulder. Defensive end Brad Senft (neck) should be okay. Kickoff is at 12:35 p.m. because regional TV. This will be Duke's first television appearance since 1972.