Maryland's defense was up to the challenge, but the Terrapin offense was unable to get anything going as Clemson emerged victorious in a game that was closer than the final score would indicate, 40-27.
The Terrapin defense was certainly up to the challenge, repeatedly getting into the backfield and putting pressure on Boyd, especially in the red zone, but Maryland's offense was unable to provide the support they needed. With their starting quarterback, running, tight end and two leading wide receivers out, the Terrapins showed a complete inability to get anything going in the passing game. Caleb Rowe completed just 19 of 45 passes for 282 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions and a fumble lost. He was 13 for 32 for 149 yards in the second half.
It didn't help that Maryland's offensive line played another horrid game -- but this time it was most notable on the left side, where Mike Madaras was called for multiple penalties that stalled drives.
It's hard to be terribly disappointed in the game. While Clemson is almost certainly ranked too high due to the nonsense of preseason polls, they are a very good football team that came into College Park hungry for a win after an embarrassment the week before. The Terrapins played hard, showed their defensive strength, and surely would have been more competitive if they had more than one starting offensive skill player available.
After Maryland's own ACC embarrassment against Wake Forest, this game will certainly feel better for the Terrapin faithful. Yes, it is a loss, and yes, Maryland is now 5-3, but it's an encouraging result with some very winnable games ahead (don't think I don't see you getting blown out by UNC, Boston College). The Terps forced three turnovers against a very good Clemson offense -- their first three turnovers forced in ACC play this year -- and seeing the defense return to form is a fantastic sign.
The Terps scored the first touchdown of the game when Caleb Rowe found Levern Jacobs over the middle on a slant pattern. Jacobs beat his man on the inside and found nothing but open field in front of him, sprinting for the 71-yard score and a 7-3 lead.
Maryland's defense played very well in the first half, although they got tired down the stretch as the Terrapin offense sputtered. The first three Tiger red zone trips resulted in field goals as the Maryland defense shut Clemson down near the goal line. With nine seconds left in the half, Tajh Boyd found Jordan Leggett for a five-yard touchdown pass, giving Clemson the 16-7 halftime lead.
Early in the third quarter, Clemson fumbled the ball on back-to-back offensive plays, with Maryland recovering and kicking a 41-yard field goal each time, cutting the gap to 16-13. Clemson responded with a field goal of their own after another Maryland red zone stand, making it 19-13.
With 14 minutes left and trailing by six, Maryland had a chance to take a late lead with a drive down the field. Albert Reid fumbled the ball on the outside, however, giving Clemson good field position at the Maryland 22. Tajh Boyd ran the ball in for a five yard-score, giving Clemson a 26-13 lead.
The Tigers scored another touchdown on the tired and frankly discouraged Maryland defense, making it 33-13, but Maryland's offense came alive too late -- Rowe engineered an actual, factual drive that ended in a touchdown toss to Amba Etta-Tawo, making it 33-20.
The defense gave up a 45-yard touchdown run to Roderick McDowell on Clemson's next drive, sealing it at 40-20.
Rowe found King in the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown pass in the last minute, cutting it to 40-27.