Ground and pound

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - It didn't take Roderick McDowell nearly this long to reach end zone last season. For Clemson, he was the first one to get there in 2012.

Finally, seven-plus games into the 2013 schedule, McDowell found pay dirt, scoring on a pair of touchdown runs in Saturday's 40-27 win over Maryland.

The senior's timing was pretty spot on.

Touchdowns were needed in the worst way when he crossed the Capital One Field goal line twice in the span of less than two minutes, late in the third quarter.

For a team that was in desperate need of a bounce back win after last weekend's debacle, McDowell wanted to contribute in anyway possible. Putting up a pair of sixes on the scoreboard made the Tigers' seventh win of the 2013 season that much sweeter for the senior running back from Sumter.

"It feels pretty good," McDowell said. "But, at the end of the day, it's another game for me…at the end of the day I've got to act like I've been there before."

McDowell finished the night with career-highs in yards [161] and carries [30].

Naturally, he credited the big guys up front for the best individual night of his Clemson career.

"Them boys went out there and established a new line of scrimmage for me to run hard and to make yards and stuff like that," McDowell said. "I've really got praise my offensive linemen. Without them, I wouldn't be able to do none of it."

Clemson finished the night with 247 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

Zac Brooks, who exited the game in the first half with a shoulder injury, had 36 yards on seven carries. Tajh Boyd picked up 35 yards and a score on 13 rushes.

The performance, which already appeared to be strong on paper, looks even better since it came against a Maryland defense that entered the night as one of the ACC's best against the run.

"Obviously, if you rush the ball for 240 yards, somebody is blocking somebody," said Dabo Swinney. "I thought the OL played really well."

But it wasn't all good, particularly during the first half when the ball was deep inside Maryland territory.

On the night, Clemson had to settle for field goals on half of the eight red zone visits. Three of those kicks were in the first half.

"Our zone game wasn't very effective, especially down near the goal line," Swinney said. "We went to a little bit more of a power scheme and mixed in some counter, got a little bit outside on them on the buck sweep. We mixed it up."

The red zone lulls were, in part, attributed to the reluctance to run Boyd early on.

A lingering ankle injury from last week and a banged up knee in the first quarter of Saturday's game forced Chad Morris to look elsewhere for ground production when the ball entered the red zone.

"Early in the game, he didn't look like himself," Morris said. "He was kind of hobbled a little bit. He wasn't moving as well as I thought he should be moving. As the game went on, he loosened up a little bit."

And so did the offense, as a whole. Success running the ball certainly made that possible.

For the first-time all season, Clemson surpassed the 200-yard rushing mark.

Before Saturday's game, the Tigers averaged just over 165 yards a game.

"That's really the core of what we want to do is run the football efficiently," Swinney said. Top Stories