Firing on all cylinders

Clemson has been a very good second-half team in each of its six games this season.

Now the Tigers hope to be just as effective as they embark on the second half of their season with a world of possibilities within reach.

"We've been good in the second half," said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, whose team is 6-0 and ranked No. 8 nationally heading into its Oct. 15 game at Maryland. "And that's what it's going to take for us to have a good season."

Swinney likes the psyche of his team, regularly praising the Tigers' leadership and hunger for improvement. It is those qualities that he's counting on to help Clemson finish the season as impressively as it started.

"How do we keep them focused? We turn the film on," Swinney said. "These guys take pride in their performance. They want to be the best, and they are committed to trying to be the best.

"They know that you can't lose your edge or you get complacent or start reading your press clippings. They know they can't just show up and win."

Particularly against Maryland. The Tigers are 4-6 against the Terrapins in their last 10 meetings and on their last visit to College Park were ambushed 24-21 despite having a team that went on to win the ACC's Atlantic Division title.

"If we want to stay in the driver's seat, we've got to take care of business," Swinney said. "You don't want to put your fate in other people's hands.

"But we've already answered a lot of questions. I know this team and I'm very comfortable that they'll face the challenges ahead."


Clemson's running game faces the ACC's worse run defense this weekend at Maryland. (Roy Philpott)
WEDNESDAY NOTES: Sophomore QB Tajh Boyd ranks first in the ACC in passing yards per game (290) and total offense (310.3) and is second in touchdown passes with 15. He's thrown just two interceptions this season and ranks 16th nationally in passing efficiency.

* Through six games Clemson has had six different players make eight plays of 50 yards or more. The record for a season is seven, established in 2001.

* Freshman WR Sammy Watkins already ranks second in Clemson history in career receiving yard games of 140 yards or more with three. Six games into his rookie season, he's just one shy of the record held by Perry Tuttle, who had four 140-yard plus games during his 46-game career from 1978-81.

* Clemson's offense continues to chug along at a record clip. The Tigers had 500 yards in a win over Boston College on Saturday despite the loss of Boyd to a hip strain early in the second half. The redshirt sophomore had passes for 283 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 37 more and another score before the injury.

The Tigers' offensive line also seems to be jelling, and that could pay dividends against the Terrapins' run defense, which ranks last in the ACC at 196.4 yards per game.

* Clemson's defense also is peaking at a good time. After surrendering several big "chunk" plays in its first few games, the Tigers' defense has clamped down on recent opponents, limiting both Virginia Tech and Boston College to identical 258-yard totals the last two weeks and allowing just one play of 20 yards or more.

The key behind the success has been an improved pass rush thanks to spirited play from ends Andre Branch and Malliciah Goodman and a strong effort up the middle by tackles Brandon Thompson and Rennie Moore.

SERIES HISTORY: Clemson leads the series with Maryland, 31-26-2 (last meeting 2010, Clemson won 31-7 at Clemson).

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