This was really difficult to grade, because Maryland had some positives (and even outgained Clemson by 130 yards) but, overall, looked pretty poor. A lot of the grades will be middlin'.
QB: Danny O'Brien was really a tale of two halves. He went 13-18 in the first half for 159 yards and led his offense to one touchdown and a short field goal opportunity. He's a redshirt freshman and there's really not much more you can expect out of him than that. His pocket awareness and mobility was surprising; he kept a few plays alive that a lot of other QBs wouldn't, and he remained very poised in the pocket, even with Clemson's linemen bearing down.
The second half wasn't quite as nice. For one, he reached the Timmy Chang Threshold. His throws were occasionally off-target or behind his receivers, and he started to telegraph some throws. He was inches away from having four interceptions. He was obviously pressing and not nearly as accurate as time went on.
Of course, he's a redshirt freshman who was getting nailed every other play by Da'Quan Bowers and whose team was losing by nearly 20 points in a loud, hostile atmosphere. When it counted, O'Brien was great. When it got out of hand, O'Brien spiraled downward, and that's something that only experience can fix. All things considered, I was still pretty impressed. B
RB: I'm not sure Maryland could do more with less at running back if they actively tried. That's mostly the fault of the offensive line, sure, but against a team with a top-flight pass rusher and a bottom 40 run defense, Maryland only mustered 14 carries for their backs for 62 yards. Focus that on just Da'Rel Scott and Davin Meggett, and that's 12 carries on 47 yards, good for just 3.9 yards per carry.
Again, rushing was how other teams beat Clemson. Maryland focused instead on passing, and it (obviously) worked poorly.
This is really a coaching staff indictment, but it's worth talking about because it's so difficult to grade the performances of Scott and Meggett. Both have proven their immense talents, but a poor offensive line and a strange coaching philosophy made it really tough to grade them. They both had one decent run - 9 yards for Meggett, 11 for Scott - and almost nothing else.
Taylor Watson helps the grade, though; after being limited by injury the past five weeks, he made his virtual debut, and made it big; 2 carries for 15 yards, including a 13-yarder that jump-started Maryland's offense, plus an 11-yard reception for a first down. He's helping fans forget Cory Jackson. C+
WR: This group might have been the bright spot of the offense. Tight ends are included, thankfully, so let's start off with Will Yeatman. After struggling with injury the past five weeks, he had three absolutely crucial catches on Maryland's scoring drive. He could very possibly have claimed a starting spot and might be a burgeoning favorite for O'Brien.
And hey, Matt Furstenburg did pretty well, too, going for 53 yards on a tight end screen on a 3rd and 18 in the 3rd quarter to go along with 4 other receptions and 98 total receiving yards.
Adrian Cannon's one-handed catch was ridiculous and moved Maryland 25 yards closer on their touchdown drive. What will probably be overlooked thanks to Cannon's crazy awesome catch will be the fact that he was the #1 target yesterday. Torrey Smith was hurting, so Cannon became the #1; he had 7 catches for 67 yards, and looked much more comfortable in the role than he was against Duke.
Smith was very quiet except for his 37-yard reception; he did have three other catches, but they totaled only 18 yards. He was obviously hurt, and it's limiting Maryland's offense. Friedgen said he lined up wrong once, and he definitly dropped two passes. The other receivers were mostly invisible, except for one great block by LaQuan Williams on a Cannon screen.
The receivers made O'Brien's stat-line impressive. Were it not for a few tough grabs by Yeatman, a 50-yard run by Furstenburg, a ridiculous one-handed drive by Cannon, and some last-second defense by Kevin Dorsey to prevent an interception, who knows what O'Brien's final statline looks like? That's not to take away from Danny O, but I'm just saying that I was pretty contented. B+
OL: Three words: "Pete DeSouza. Yikes."
I'm not sure how many holds DeSouza was called for (at least two) or how many times he got flat-out beaten (at least twice), but it wasn't a good day for the DeMatha alum. I don't want to be too critical - he's a redshirt freshman up against the best pass-rushing team in the ACC, of course he's going to struggle - but you can't not say it.
R.J. Dill, Justin Lewis, and Andrew Gonnella all got nailed at some point for a penalty that nullified a decent Maryland play, and there was the traditional procedural stuff, too. No one could stay in front of Da'Quan Bowers
consistently at all, and he probably just took the national lead for sacks. Teams ran on Clemson pretty successfully in the past, but the line couldn't get a consistent push there, either. Danny O'Brien was consistently forced out of the pocket and to make plays that aren't his forte.
Yeah, I wasn't impressed. D
DL: The defensive line was actually better than I expected, and that applies to the entire defense. It's easy to see all the negatives from the game, especially offensively, but it could've been a lot worse defensively. Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis both were instrumental in breaking up some running plays - the much-vaunted Andre Ellington only had 41 yards and a 2.6 yards/carry average.
The only real complaints I have from the group comes from the lack of a pass rush, which was painfully absent most of the game. Even when they did get through, Kyle Parker was able to escape them. Sacks are pretty much the best play for a defense outside of a forced turnover, and Maryland didn't get a single one of them yesterday. A timely sack on, say, Clemson's TD drive in the 2nd quarter, could've very possibly changed the outcome of the game. B-
LB: The 'backers didn't have their playmaking panache, which disappeared at a very bad time. Adrian Moten even dropped an interception, and it probably would've been a pick-6. This might be the wake-up call everyone needed: big plays aren't going to come as easily against legitimate ACC teams as they did against FIU and Duke. (They also share a lot of blame for the lack of a pass rush, Moten and Demetrius Hartsfield in particular.)
But on the other hand, they did a great job of keeping Ellington from reaching the second level, and they did it pretty consistently. Outside of the one linebacker play that stood out to me - Darin Drakeford shooting out of a cannon to tackle Ellington for a loss - they sort of morphed into the defensive line. Overwhelmingly, the goal was to stop the run and force Clemson to beat Maryland with the pass. That's what happened, so I just find it difficult to fault the defense much at all. It was a rather successful day. It would've been a lot more successful if they got to Parker once or twice. B
DB: The real question at the start of the year was if Maryland had a #2 corner; now, it's if they have a #1. Trenton Hughes has been a pleasant surprise for sure, and he rarely gets picked on. Cameron Chism, on the other hand, has been a disappointment. After a relatively great sophomore season, most thought that Chism would make the natural leap to stardom, or at least progress.
But he's had a rough year. He has had 6 pass breakups, but he's been picked on a lot and gets his name called often, and rarely for interceptions. He was beaten once today and called for a PI later. Dexter McDougle hasn't looked much better - and Michael Carter certainly hasn't - but Maryland needs to find something to do at corner. Whether that's Travis Hawkins or just getting Chism better, I don't know, but something.
Kenny Tate was surprisingly quiet; not bad, but again, Maryland could've used some plays. Antwine Perez provided a few, including a big hit on a Clemson tight end that prevented a touchdown and a perfectly-timed blitz to tackle Ellington in the backfield.
Like I said, Maryland's goal was to force Clemson to beat them through the air, and even though the Tigers won, they certainly didn't win through the air. Parker was 7-20 for 106 yards, and nearly half of those yards came on a long run after the catch from a Jamie Harper checkdown. Chism was a little disappointing, but on the whole, they did their job. They didn't win the game for Maryland, but at some point the offense is going to have to do that for themselves. B
Special Teams: I hate that Maryland had awesome special teams that entirely didn't show up yesterday. At all.
A limp Torrey Smith and Trenton Hughes split duties on kick returns, and they didn't crack 20 yards/return. Tony Logan (aka Mr. Fair Catch Nothing) fair caught two returns where he had room and did legitimately nothing on another. He did have one 18 yard return, but it was too late to be meaningful.
Travis Baltz has been pulling double-duty and being spectacular in doing so, but his punts were average today - an average of 43.7 - and he absolutely killed Maryland's momentum by missing a 33-yard FG that he should've hit. Nick Ferrara was no better, as his kickoffs were short, and one directly lead to a Clemson TD.
And what's with the kick coverage here? It's been iffy before, but this was really bad; Andre Ellington ran a kickoff back for a TD, and Jaron Brown set up Clemson in the red zone with a big punt return. Not cool.
Maryland's special teams are better than this. Maryland as a team needs better than this. D
Coaching: For the first quarter and a half, I was pretty happy with it. The playcalling was fine, and the players seemed pretty focused and ready to play. I have to give credit for James Franklin's call on the Da'Rel Scott throw; even if it was a terrible call in retrospect, it worked, so I recognize the chutzpah.
(Sidenote: the defensive playcalling was great. Seriously, Don Brown, props. Clemson had 213 total yards, 80 of which came on a single drive. Can't ask for much more).
The first problem was the call on a 3rd and 1 in the middle of the 2nd quarter on the Clemson 7. Franklin decided to pass; Da'Quan Bowers predictably burst through the line and sacked O'Brien for 9 yards. That set up a 33-yard FG for Travis Baltz, which he promptly shanked.
At the time, I wasn't in love with the call, but I didn't particularly hate it, either. In hindsight, the obvious call there is to run the ball down Clemson's throat - which the Terps had done to the tune of 6.2 yards/carry on the drive - and avoid any possibility of Bowers messing things up. That, obviously, isn't what happened.
Of course, the fact that the entire team deflated after that exact moment is placed, at least partially, on the staff. One of their major responsibilities is to motivate the players, and they seriously failed there. Maryland went from the verge of 14-10 to 17-7, and pretty much gave up. Either Friedgen/Franklin aren't great motivators or they've "lost control"; either way, it's bad.
So, too, is the decision to make O'Brien throw the ball upwards of 40 times and completely abandoning the run. Letting Clemson tee off on O'Brien passing the ball was suicidal; the running game should've been the crux of Maryland's offense, and it was ignored. C-
- Will Yeatman, TE - Who expected this? Without Yeatman's 41 yards on Maryland's scoring drive, the Terps get shut out.
- Antwine Perez, S - Broke up a Clemson touchdown on their first drive, and demolished Andre Ellington on a perfectly-timed blitz in the third quarter.
- Danny O'Brien, QB - The special teams gets passed over today, because they were all terrible. Danny O, on the other hand, wasn't terrible.
- Matt Furstenburg, TE - Yeatman will get most of the love, deservedly so, but Furst had 5 catches for 98 yards.