Terps take 'easy' way out

October 02, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- The University of Maryland's defensive game plan against Clemson was simple: Be complicated.

The Terps ended up with a complex.

"The first half looked ugly," said Maryland linebacker Moise Fokou. "Clemson got all it wanted and we had no answers. We played our normal defense, but tried to disguise it. They had it all figured out."

The Terrapins planned to trick the Tigers in the opening - and key - game in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Clemson ended up doing the trick on Maryland.

The Tigers dominated the first half with their running game to build a convincing 17-6 lead. The possibilities looked bleak for the Terps.


But Maryland came up with a unique approach to getting back in the game in what was starting to look like a hopeless second half.

"We went back in the locker room, made adjustments and remembered what got them beat two years ago," Fokou said.

Ahhh. A novel idea ... nostalgia. Play basic, no-frills defense. Maryland found all the answers it needed and shut out Clemson in the second half to rally for a 20-17 win. It was everything Maryland wanted, but nowhere close to what it imagined.

"It was a weird game and was even weirder after I watched it on tape," said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen. "There were some crazy things that happened in the game and we are very fortunate because we did not play well. I thought we played hard in the second half, especially our defense."

The Terps found something against Clemson by really doing nothing. Nothing fancy. Nothing tricky. Nothing innovated.

It was just basic, throwback defense.

"We wanted to take away the running game and make them one-dimensional," Fokou said. "We tried to push their offensive line back a little more and get more guys coming off the edges, and it worked out. We just used fundamental defense."

Maryland's defense transformed - and quite possibly found itself - in the second half. The Terps held Clemson to 112 yards, including 26 on the ground. That came after allowing 195 yards rushing in the first half.

Clemson lost most of its diversity early in the third quarter when C.J. Spiller, the bolting half of the Tigers' "Thunder and Lightning" tandem with James Davis, went down with leg cramps. He returned to the game but wasn't nearly as effective. In the second half, Spiller had no gain in three carries after running for 98 yards and a touchdown in the first half.

"(Spiller) cramping up helped out, but Davis is a fast runner," Fokou said. "By stopping them from running, we were able to apply more pressure. We were able to get into the quarterback's face."

Maryland made quarterback Cullen Harper uncomfortable. Without the running game to lean on, Harper was forced to carry Clemson with his arm. That allowed Maryland to tee off with linebackers, including Fokou, charging from the perimeter to limit success.

"This team is like riding a roller coaster and it has been going up lately," Fokou said. "There are games where we look bad, but we always come back to beat ranked teams.

"People don't believe in us, but as long as we believe in ourselves, we'll be OK. We're a family. At times, we play a half or the second half, but not a whole game. If we could play the whole thing, we can be dangerous."

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