The Running Back Committees
Coach Ralph Friedgen played his top three tailbacks -- Mario Merrills, Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore -- against Navy. But Lattimore played almost exclusively on passing downs and had just one carry, while Ball -- whose fourth-quarter, fourth-down catch-and-run was the play of the game -- rushed five times. Meantime, Merrills, in his first career start, got 30 chances and gained 149 yards, leading Friedgen to make a perhaps unnecessary observation: If Merrills keeps running like that, the committee could dissolve. Clemson, on the other hand, gave the ball at least seven times to all four of its running backs against Texas A&M, although only freshman James Davis averaged better than three yards a carry.
Will Either Kicker Ever Miss?
Maryland entered the Navy game with a place kicker who had never attempted a field goal in a competitive setting. Junior Dan Ennis responded by making all three of his attempts, including a 40-yarder to keep the Terps in the game. Clemson junior Jad Dean, right, was even more impressive against Texas A&M. The Tigers' offense failed to score a touchdown, but Dean set a school record by connecting on all six of his field goal attempts, including the game-winner with two seconds left.
Break Out the Hurdles
Cornerback Tye Hill, a preseason all-ACC pick for the Clemson football team, has earned several all-ACC honors for the Tigers' track program. He was the ACC champion in the indoor 60-meter dash and the outdoor 100-meter dash two years ago, although he's gradually decreased his track participation to focus on football. Hill's speed could be tested by speedy freshman wide receivers Isaiah Williams and Darrius Heyward-Bey -- himself a high school track star -- who are expected to make their debuts today. Maryland's defensive backfield is also filled with sprinters: Starting cornerbacks Gerrick McPhearson and Josh Wilson ran with the Terps' track team in the offseason, with McPhearson setting a Maryland record (and equaling Hill's ACC championship time) in the 60-meter dash. McPhearson and Wilson will get their first real challenge today after facing Navy's run-happy offense last week.
What Could Have Been . . .
Amid the disappointments of 2004, a 10-7 loss at Clemson stands out. Maryland didn't play well offensively yet never trailed through more than 59 minutes. But Clemson scored with 23 seconds left, capping a drive that was kept alive by a questionable pass interference call in the end zone. Several Maryland players are still irritated by that penalty, but Friedgen claims the loss doesn't haunt him. "There were a lot of things that bothered me last year," he said. "If I start rehashing all of them, I'm gonna go nuts."
. . . And What Will Be
It's far too early in the year for melodrama, but there's plenty at stake here. The No. 25 Tigers are ranked for the first time in a year; after losing their second game last season, they fell out of the rankings and never returned. Maryland isn't near a national ranking, but they must continue to stockpile wins during their more forgiving early-season schedule. And after the ACC realigned in the offseason, this is also the inaugural Atlantic Division game for both teams. While many players throughout the league couldn't name their divisional foes this summer, Friedgen and Clemson Coach Tommy Bowden this week emphasized the importance of divisional games.