Embarrassing the University of Maryland today, Clemson threw the football twice as much as usual. The nation's No. 2-ranked team completed two of every three passses. The receiver Perry Tuttle broke a bunch of records. A senior caught the first touchdown pass of his life. It was bad for the Turtles, real bad, badder than the 21-7 score tells.
What I want to know is where is Rodney Dangerfield when Maryland really needs him? Put a helmet on the clown. Get him out of those season-ticket commercials and make him play defense to earn that $40,000. The way it is, this Maryland defense gets no respect. No respect at all. You get the idea Little Orphan Annie could get open on a fly pattern against these guys.
Once the crown jewel of Jerry Claiborne's football kingdom, the coach's defensive unit is now a rock in mud. To make Claiborne's "wide-tackle six" defense work, you need fire-eating backs and linebackers quick afoot. Claiborne has none of the above. And so Maryland is giving up 270 yards by passing every week. That is shameful in big-time football.
So shameful is it that Clemson came into this game supremely confident. The tailgaters in orange caps, orange shirts, orange socks and, so help me, orange shoes took the sun at ease. No tension in Death Valley today. Not with the Turtles crawling into town. Injured tackle Dan Benish went on a radio show two hours before kickoff and said, "We're going to beat them bad."
They did. It was 21-0 at halftime. The second half, the Tigers didn't try very hard. Afterward, they talked of lacking killer instinct. Good teams always have that to worry about when the opposition is so shamefully inept that it's hard to stay awake for the final score. For Clemson, the thrill went out of today's game when Jerry Gaillard caught his touchdown pass.
This is how confident Clemson was: Though Gaillard is a senior who never caught a touchdown pass in three seasons and 34 receptions, part of Clemson's game plan this week included the celebration that would take place after Gaillard's first touchdown catch.
Gaillard and Tuttle planned it out. "We decided to do something crazy," Tuttle said, blissfully unaware of what such planning said about Maryland's defense. "Jerry was going to spike it, and then I would come over and spike it again."
"Right," said Gaillard, a little guy with no discernible speed who simply ran past a defender and took an 11-yard touchdown pass. "After I caught it, I turned around and saw Perry about 15 yards away. I started toward him, but somebody tackled me and knocked the damn ball loose. Next thing I knew, everybody was on top of me and I never got to spike my touchdown."
Tuttle's work was more spectacular, for he truly is a big-time talent. Gil Brandt, the Cowboys' talent scout, watched Tuttle catch eight passes for 129 yards in the first half. Said Brandt: "A first-round draft pick. Not that much behind Jerry Butler. Not the speed, but nobody has Butler's speed. Tuttle is 4.5, 4.6. A good one."
Wide receivers say their prayers every night and ask for Maryland to come to town. "I love to see that eight-man front," Tuttle said. He spoke of the Maryland defense that puts eight men near the line of scrimmage, practically forcing the backs to cover wide receivers man to man. If Maryland has anyone capable of playing Tuttle man to man, his identity is secret.
In Clemson's first nine games, Tuttle caught only 34 passes. Today he caught 10, two for touchdowns, and, among other records, broke Butler's career reception record (142 now). Most times you figure a fellow catching 10 passes in one day is on the other end of the line from, say, Roger Staubach. Not with this Clemson team. The quarterback is Homer Jordan, whose anonymity is well earned.
Jordan is only a fair passer, capable of mediocre days such as this year's four for 11 against Kentucky and three for 14 against N.C. State. But then he saw films of Maryland. One look at Maryland's defense against the pass -- Wake Forest passed for 556 yards, Tulane's third-string quarterback passed for 245 -- and every quarterback dreams he is Terry Bradshaw going deep to Lynn Swann.
"I worked hard preparing for this game," Jordan said. "Our offense was clicking all around. The line gave me plenty of time and the receivers were holding onto the ball. We planned to throw a lot, more than we had all year, and I checked off at the line sometimes to throw more."
What caused him to change plays at the line of scrimmage?
"They'd get all eight guys up real close, and that left them man on man with Tuttle."
Jordan smiled at that thought.
At halftime, Jordan was 15 for 18. He had never completed so many passes. He hit 13 of 14 at one stretch. Clemson's second touchdown, on a five-yard slant-in to Tuttle, came on Jordan's fourth straight completion. The third touchdown, the 11-yarder to Gaillard, came as Jordan completed three straight passes.
Those passes covered 55 yards in 53 seconds. Against most teams, a yard-a-second offense is memorable work. Against Maryland, it's nothing to write home about.