When a defense allows 577 yards, the second highest-total in its school's history, as Clemson did today, there can be no excuses. Only questions, such as: What happened? Why?

"The answer is in the score," said Clemson's defensive coordinator, Tom Harper. "You have to give credit to the University of Maryland. They move their people around and turn the ball up inside. They were real effective with the counter play.

"I don't know if we overran on the cutbacks or what. I thought we were in the best possible defense, but Sunday (after looking at game films) I might think differently."

Entering the game, Clemson's defense was allowing 138.6 rushing yards per game, third-best in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Maryland's top three rushers -- Alvin Blount, Rick Badanjek, and Tommy Neal -- tripled that with 418 net yards.

It was hardly a matter of several long runs or the Terrapins' breakaway speed. Maryland's longest run from scrimmage was a 20-yard run by Badanjek. The Terrapins' success came from counter plays that left gaping holes in the Clemson defense.

"I don't know how to spell gaping," Clemson Coach Danny Ford said. "But they were a mile wide."

"In the second half, we literally got shoved around. I think this was the worst defense I've seen a Clemson team play since 1980."

The 41 points by Maryland were the most scored against the Tigers since a 41-0 loss to Georgia in 1976. Blount's 214 yards were the most against a Clemson defense since Wake Forest's James McDougald gained 249 the same year.

Maryland showed little respect for William (the Refrigerator) Perry, the 340-pound all-America middle guard who anchors Clemson's defense. It ran plays over and by him.

Perry, though, appeared unfazed by Maryland's 577 yards of total offense. "I had a great game," said Perry. "I don't know how he (Maryland center Kevin Glover) played."

For his part, Perry forced quarterback Frank Reich to fumble in the second period, then recovered on the Terrapins 26. It led to a 23-yard field goal by Donald Igwebuike, bringing Clemson to 14-10.

Undoubtedly, Maryland's players and Coach Bobby Ross remembered the pain of last year's 25-point loss at Clemson.

"They had 52-27 implanted in their head," said defensive tackle Steve Berlin. "They played like men possessed.

"They weren't letting up at all. We had to suck it up and we just didn't do it. That's the bottom line."