GRADES: Tigers find a way

CLEMSON - After some early tense moments, the Tigers ended their three game losing streak Saturday afternoon against ACC rival Maryland.

While it was far from perfect and left plenty to be desired, the offense didn't get in the way of a strong effort by Clemson's special teams and defense, which led to the easy win. Kyle Parker completed just 7-of-20 passes and the team as a whole didn't even rush for 100 yards, but when it counted, this unit rose to the occasion. The fourth-and-goal conversion just before halftime was one of the biggest plays of the game as Jamie Harper plowed across the goal line to give the Tigers a 17-7 advantage. In addition, Clemson's offensive line held up against a series of blitzes, yielding just one sack. Without question, the Tigers will need more from this unit next week against Georgia Tech, but limiting mistakes and taking advantage of good field position was enough to get the win.

Wasn't this the unit we all thought the Tigers would have this season? Da'Quan Bowers is having one of the greatest seasons for a Clemson defensive lineman in quite some time after recording three more sacks Saturday. At times, he looked unblockable. The Tigers also eliminated Maryland's rushing attack, giving up just 44 total yards, while also intercepting Danny O'Brien three times, including returning one 61 yards for a touchdown (Xavier Brewer) to provide the final margin of victory. Most importantly, Clemson gave up just seven points - and that came on a throwback pass to the quarterback, and also didn't give up too many big plays. If this unit performs like this the rest of the year, the Tigers will have a chance to win every game they play.

Da'Quan Bowers is having one of the greatest seasons for a Clemson defensive lineman in quite some time after recording three more sacks Saturday. (Roy Philpott)
Andre Ellington changed the complexion of the game with an 87 yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the second quarter while Jaron Brown's 41 yard punt return helped setup another score later on. Chandler Catanzaro made his only field goal attempt - from 42 yards out and Dawson Zimmerman pinned the Terps inside their 20 yard line four times. Plus, Clemson kept the explosive Tony Logan in check on punt returns. Once again Clemson's special teams were spectacular.

At the end of the day, the most important thing was the Tigers got the win. It didn't matter how it happened. It didn't matter what the final score was, this program simply needed a win and it finally got one for the first time in a month. Sure the offense was far from explosive, but the offensive line held its own and the unit didn't make any back breaking mistakes- which was huge in a game like this. The defense has also shown tremendous improvement in the last two games, yielding just 28 total points. And special teams? Well, they've been exactly that - special. While it was far from perfect, the Tigers got the win and can now take that added confidence into next week's game against Georgia Tech.

Honestly, this how we expected Clemson to win games this year - with a punishing, opportunistic defense, decent play on special teams and managing the game on offense. That's exactly what we saw Saturday against Maryland. Unfortunately, the competition gets stiffer starting next weekend against Georgia Tech. Without question, Clemson will have to play much better, especially on offense, to beat a program that has had its number in recent years. It almost feels like Clemson is simply due to win one of these nail biters with the Yellow Jackets, but the law of averages rarely applies to college football. If the Tigers are to truly get back into the Atlantic Division race, it starts with a win over Paul Johnson and Georgia Tech. Top Stories