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Tigers avoid Maryland's speed trap

September 11, 2005|By BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md.

As tortoises - or in this case, Terrapins - go, the University of Maryland had the style down pat.

Slow and steady wins the race. Stay true to the offense and defense and most of the time, you'll win games.

On Saturday, though, they met a hare that beat them by a hair.

Clemson threw its game into the passing lane and used its greatest asset - its speed - to knock the Terps back in their shell to pull out a stinging 28-24 victory before more than 50,000 fans at Byrd Stadium.

Clemson trailed for most of the game but opened everything up in the last 10 minutes, scoring two touchdowns in the last 7:35 to put the Terps in the soup.

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"You know, this is a tough loss," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "We had this game in hand but they did a great job and came back and took it from us. That's disappointing. We have to learn to finish people."

While Maryland had the game going its way for the first 50 minutes, it was another occasion when an old adversary ran the Terps over in the long run.

Speed has a habit of killing the Terps. Maryland has struggled with teams like Florida State, Florida and now Clemson - those with quick athletes who seem to wear Maryland down over the course of time.

It started happening again in the final 10 minutes on Saturday.

Clemson seemed to switch from possession offense and containing defense to more of an attacking mode.

The switch came with Maryland leading 24-14, and produced a 51-yard Charlie Whitehurst-to Curtis Baham touchdown pass on a fly pattern down the left hash mark with 7:35 left to get the Tigers within three. Then, they used a draw-style play to the right that Reggie Merriweather cut to the right sideline for a 38-yard burst with 2:58 remaining to take the lead and the win.

"We've done that a good bit over the course of the last year," Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said. "I think there are going to be dry spells for both offenses and defenses on a week-to-week basis based on what I've seen. There are a lot of people who are going to come up here and struggle offensively and defensively."

Maryland had Clemson where it wanted the Tigers. The Terps had buttoned down and contained Clemson for much of the game, until the final 10 minutes.

Clemson's offense was bogged down, while the defense was suspect to Maryland's passing game. But when the speed switched on, the Terps were on their heels with quarterback Sam Hollenbach looking for outlets to keep the offense rolling.

Hollenbach finished with 288 yards passing, but only hit 3 of 6 passes for 29 yards in the later stages of the game while moving around to find added time to throw. He was also sacked twice in crucial situations in the final 10 minutes.

"Personally, I'm upset with the way I played," Hollenbach said. "I know there were plays that I should have made that I didn't. Those plays could have been the difference between winning and losing. I don't know what happened. They were bringing more pressure and we made good plays. But their D-line is big. I don't know what we did wrong, but it's something we can fix."

The point came when Clemson was running away from Maryland. The speed over the course of the game put the Terps in cement trying to catch up. Clemson rushed for 114 yards, but got 82 of them in the final two drives.

"We are well conditioned," Maryland linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said. "They needed a game-winning drive and we needed a game-winning stop and we were unable to come up with it. We have to remember this feeling ... I'm tired of it. The guys played hard, but we just gave up the big one."

It is another rung on the learning ladder for Maryland, which couldn't come up with the things it needed to pull out a victory it should have been able to preserve in the first place.

"I was disappointed in how we ran the ball," Friedgen said. "A good team can run the ball for 80 yards when it has to and can do it when (the defense) knows it's coming. We aren't there yet. We wore down a little in the end. I told them that they let this one get away. We had it, but we have to learn how to finish. They are too nice."

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