Maryland players began throwing tangerines yesterday and planning a week at Disney World after they defeated Clemson, 34-7, at Byrd Stadium and accepted a bid to the Tangerine Bowl and a Dec. 20 meeting against Florida in Orlando.
The 32,650 spectators who sat through a blustery, rain-sprinkled afternoon saw the Terrapins (7-3) turn in what Coach Jerry Claiborne called "the best game we've played all season."
Senior quarterback Mike Tice, who completed nine of 13 passes for 144 yards, threw two touchdown strikes to senior split end Chris Havener, as the Maryland offensive unit surprised the Tigers with a diversified attack rarely seen this season.
Tailback Charlie Wysocki ran for two touchdowns and 106 yards on 30 carries, and kicker Dale Castro, one of 21 seniors playing their last home game, booted field goals of 22 and 37 yards to send Maryland to its seventh bowl game in the last eight years. The Terps will finish the regular season next week against Virginia in Charlottsville, before meeting Florida. Maryland beat Florida, 13-0, in the Gator Bowl in 1975.
"I'm just delighted, just very happy right now," Claiborne said after his offensive and defensive lines had dominated the turnover-prone Tigers (5-5). "Hopefully, after this, we'll be nationally ranked."
Representatives from four bowl committees, the Tangerine, Garden State, Hall of Fame and Peach, were in attendance scouting the two teams with Maryland Athletic Director Jim Kehoe accepting the Tangerine invitation with four minutes remaining in the lopsided game.
Florida (7-2) needed a field goal with less than 10 seconds remaining in its game with Kentucky to assure the Tangerine bid.
The Terps took a 14-0 lead on Wysocki's three-yard touchdown run and Tice's first touchdown pass, of 21 yards, to Havener. The second score was set up by a Clemson roughing-the-punter penalty, giving the ball back to the Terps on their 14.
Clemson scored its only touchdown in four plays, going 25 yards, after Terp fullback Rick Fasano fumbled shortly after the second half began. Tiger tailback Chuck McSwain carried three times, to the five, before fullback Jeff McCall rumbled up the middle to cut the Maryland lead to 14-7.
But Wysocki, now just 50 yards shy of Steve Adins' single season rushing record, ran three yards for his second touchdown and a 21-7 lead after Tiger quarterback Homer Jordan fumbled. Tice, before leaving the game to a loud ovation, passed 25 yards to Havener for his second score and a 28-7 lead. Backup quarterback Brent Dewitz then led two fourth-quarter drives that resulted in Castro field goals.
The usually conservative Maryland offense suddenly had scored more points against the huge Clemson defense than it had against any other team this season.
"Scoring those touchdowns from close in (Wysocki's two plunges) against Clemson has been almost impossible for other teams to do this season," Claiborne said. "Getting seven points twice instead of having to settle for a field goal made a world of difference in that it took all kinds of pressure off us.
"As a result, our defense had complete control of this game."
The Terrapin five-man pass rush in the second half swarmed Jordan. He failed often in his attempts to hit Perry Tuttle, the Atlantic Coast Conference's leading receiver who still managed four catches for 63 yards.
Tice cited guard Dave Pacella and tackle Scott Fanz with "knocking their defense around all day. Rick Fasano knocked the cornerback down on almost every sweep or pass play."
But the talk about yesterday's game didn't last long. Most of those in the locker room were too busy dodging flying fruit and thinking about the mid-winter excursion to Orlando. Especially excited was Havener, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound receiver who shredded the Tiger secondary for 107 yards on six receptions.
"I went to high school in Orlando (Colonial High), so this will be a homecoming for me," he said. "I don't think we could have gotten the bid without beating Clemson convincingly like we did. We had last week off and a lot of people thought we'd be stale today. But, as you saw, the offense started moving the ball right away.
"I just can't wait for the Tangerine," Havener said. "The most important thing to this team was to get this bid."
Tice, who Claiborne said played his best game this year, said, "This means a lot to me because we didn't go anywhere last year, and the year before the Sun Bowl wasn't much fun." Maryland got flattened, 42-0, by Texas in that one.
Claiborne tried to remind his players they still had to face the Cavaliers next week, but the message was drowned out by a shout of "We'll see you in Orlando," from Tangerine Bowl committee representative John Shelton. And once again, there was fruit in the air.