Tigers, Terps have Much to Prove

Things don't look quite as bleak for Clemson as they did a week ago when the Tigers were riding a four-game losing streak.

Things don't look quite as bleak for Clemson as they did a week ago when the Tigers were riding a four-game losing streak.

The Tigers (2-4, 1-3 ACC) stopped their skid with a 35-6 victory over Utah State and now get a slumping Maryland team at home Saturday. The Terrapins have managed only 172 yards in their past two games, both losses. They have given up 12 sacks and converted only four of 33 third-down situations against Georgia Tech and North Carolina State.

The Tigers, meanwhile, seem to be rejuvenated defensively, holding Utah State to a negative 20 yards rushing and registering 11 sacks.

"Regardless of the opponent, what we did defensively was pretty impressive against anybody," coach Tommy Bowden said.

Offensively, though, the turnover woes continued. QB Charlie Whitehurst threw two more interceptions, running his total for the season to 13. That's as many as he had all of 2003.

"That's kind of like one of the cardinal sins," Bowden said of a deep ball Whitehurst threw over the middle that was picked off. "We can't do that versus the teams we play here on out."

On the plus side, TBs Reggie Merriweather and Duane Coleman combined for 186 yards rushing, by far their most productive game of the season.

They had 39 carries between them and throw in three more by Yusef Kelly and Kyle Browning and Clemson running backs had 42 rushes for the day, nearly half their total of 86 through the first five games.

The game against Maryland is the second of a three-game homestand for the Tigers, who need to win four of the next five to get the six wins necessary to qualify for a bowl.

Meanwhile at Maryland, the Terrapins appear to be suffering through difficult times for the first time in Ralph Friedgen's head coaching career. Sound offense has been a staple under Friedgen, but his inability to generate yardage and points this season has caused introspection.

Incredibly, Maryland (3-3) has produced a mere 172 yards -- total -- in the past two games, one of the worst consecutive performances in school history.

"I wish I could just wave a magic wand and make this thing start happening," he said. "In my career, period, I don't think I've ever had two games like that back-to-back. There may be more unless we get something going.

"How do you go from close to 700 yards total offense against Duke and not have 100 against Georgia Tech and N.C. State? How do you fall that fast? To me, that's the question."

One of the reasons is poor quarterback play. Joel Statham, a sophomore with limited experience last year, has been ineffective. Freshman Jordan Steffy has struggled like most freshmen quarterbacks.

It has created plenty of quarterback quandary as Friedgen enters Saturday's game at Clemson. He may not announce his starter until then.

"To me, the competition is very even," he said. "I don't know if one has an advantage over the other."

Poor offensive play has likely cost Maryland a better record. The Terps' early season schedule was soft, so facing Clemson, Florida State, Virginia and Virginia Tech in coming weeks is a daunting challenge.

"At times, I think we lost a little heart," Friedgen said.

Scouting the Maryland Offense
Maryland had 11 possessions against N.C. State without making a first down. With uncertainty at quarterback, teams have crowded the line of scrimmage and made it very difficult for Maryland to fool anyone. The other problem has been injuries to the offensive line, compounded by a depleted backfield.

Scouting the Maryland Defense
It's been one of the few positive elements of the season. The Terps are staying in games because they're not getting plowed on defense. They currently ranked seventh in the ACC in total defense, which is not bad considering how anemic the offense has looked. The problem is that Maryland's defense has to stay on the field too long and gets worn down.

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