"We were going to go for it on fourth down, so I thought it was a brilliant call," quarterback Charlie Whitehurst said. "A couple of the guys kind of looked at me (puzzled) and (Chansi) Stuckey looked at me and said, ‘What?' And I said, ‘I think it's a good one, just get a block.' And it kind of worked out exactly the way I thought it would. … It was a good one."
The call was a counter draw where Whitehurst handed it to tailback Reggie Merriweather out of the shotgun. It was the right call and the right time.
Merriweather started inside and quickly bounded it to the right sideline, where he got blocks from receivers Aaron Kelly and Kelvin Grant, which enabled him to go the distance for the game-winning touchdown with 2:58 to play.
"Usually in that situation on third down, you're going to throw the ball," Stuckey said. "But Coach Spence did a good job of studying them on film and kind of knew what they were going to do. We got some good blocks and Reggie was able to spring it."
Prior to the play, the Tigers called timeout to discuss their options.
"I was telling Rob that I thought that we were going to go for it on the fourth-down play," Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said. "I wanted to make sure everybody was on the same page and they knew what we were going to do. … I just told (Spence) he had two downs and could do whatever he wants. He can take two runs or he can take a run and a pass. We can throw a fourth-and-four pass if you get no gain. I just gave him the flexibility to run or pass."
For Spence, he doesn't think running the ball on third-and-long was that gutsy of a call.
"I believe that you can run the ball on third-and-seven," he said. "If you look statistically at teams and what they do on third down, they never run the ball. If there's an opportunity to run the ball, it might be on that down and distance and people ignore it all too often.
"The other aspect of that is we were in a four-down play call mode and I thought if we could pick up some, we'd have a shot to get that fourth down play and be that much closer to making it on fourth down."
Spence also cited Merriweather's decision to get to the outside on the play.
"That's something that happens on that particular play by design if (Maryland) plays a certain technique up front and he did a wonderful job of bouncing ball outside on the technique that the defensive front game him," Spence said. "He hit a home run for us in that situation."
The call didn't shock Merriweather. Only the fact that he was in the game after starter James Davis had just broken off two long runs before that.
"I was just more surprised that I got a chance to prove myself as a veteran on the team," he said. "We were down in the fourth quarter and we scored on both drives that I was in. I was just happy to contribute to the win.
"That play had been wide open all afternoon. They told me that I just need to get to the 30 and when I heard that, I did was going to do whatever I could to get to the 30. But then I got that last block and I was able to score."
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