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Terps need to weather more than Thunder, Lightning

September 25, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland defense is well aware of Saturday's forecast.

There will be more than just a threat of "Thunder and Lightning" at game time when the Terrapins face Clemson at Death Valley.

"Thunder and Lightning" is the name Clemson has given to running backs James Davis and C.J. Spiller, the key components in the Tigers' feared running game. But this year, the tandem might only be the noise before the storm as Clemson has shown a solid passing game.

"Both of them can run inside and outside, but it looks as if they feature getting Spiller the ball on the perimeter," Maryland coach Ralph Fridgen said Tuesday during his weekly media conference. "The other thing that makes it tough is they bring in (Cullen) Harper, who is a good quarterback, but then they get (Jacory) Ford in the backfield also.

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"All of those guys can really run, so you have to worry about pass coverages. Any one of those guys can go all the way in one play. That's what makes it so tough."

Davis and Spiller made their mark in last year's 30-17 win over Maryland at Byrd Stadium. Davis rushed for 129 yards and Spiller added 106.

"It's the same as usual. There is no surprise," Maryland defensive lineman Jeremy Navarre said. "We have to keep them inside. Their strength is getting to the outside, and that's what hurt us last year."

While the running game is a main concern, the addition of Clemson's passing just compounds the problem.

Maryland has struggled defensively for the last few weeks, and most of the problems have come against the pass. The Terps have been unable to get to quarterbacks consistency. And add to the problem that Maryland has five defensive backs on the injury list.

"Where we are hurting right now is at the corner position," Friedgen said. "Losing Richard Taylor hurt us. I'm hoping Michael Carter, Trenton Hughes and Cameron Chism can come up and help us. On a positive note, I think Jamari McCollough has come in and played very well for us and I think that helps us with another guy in the secondary. It's kind of like it always is - when the opportunity arises, some people have to step forward like Jamari has."

Davis and Spiller are still the focal points of Clemson's offense, but the Tigers certainly are aware of Maryland's problems against the pass.

The Terps rank 109th nationally in passing defense and have allowed 989 yards passing in the past three games - 284 yards to Middle Tennessee State, 423 to California and 282 to Eastern Michigan.

"My concern was the way we ended up playing the last four quarters," Friedgen said. "In the California game (a 35-27 win), I thought we did a heck of a job in the first three quarters of the game. Then, whether it was fatigue or a lack of focus ... They weren't running any new patterns. Then, on Saturday, we played pretty good for a quarter, maybe a quarter and a half.

"That's what concerns me. We play real well for a time and then we don't. That's the thing we have to get corrected. The consistency. If you go back to the California game, that was a pretty good passing football team and at the end of three quarters, I think they had 188 yards and 23 attempts. We are capable of doing it. We are going to have to do it again this week."

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