There are a couple of reasons why Clemson had to kick a field goal with 2:25 left to play: an illegal formation penalty and admitted conservative play calling.
The two big miscues inside the Maryland 10 will no doubt haunt the Tigers in the exact same fashion the Georgia Tech loss did last year.
Clemson had the ball second-and-goal at the 4, when quarterback Will Proctor handed off to tailback James Davis, who weaved his way across the goal line for what appeared to be a score.
But on the play, the Tigers were called for illegal formation. They only had six players on the line of scrimmage because there were only 10 players on the field. It was the exact same thing that cost Clemson a touchdown last year at Georgia Tech.
"We had the same thing that killed us at Georgia Tech last year, 10 men on the field," said an irritated Dustin Fry. "How do you have 10 men on the field? That's just terrible. I really don't know what to say there. That negated a touchdown just like it did last year and we lost the game."
Oddly enough, it was again a tight end.
This time it was freshman Michael Palmer who didn't take to the field in what was supposed to be a four-tight end set. Last year, it was Cole Downer.
"Obviously when you play true freshmen sometimes there's miscommunication," head coach Tommy Bowden said. "When you play young people you're going to get those."
Fry did add that the mistake by not being on the field wasn't the only reason Clemson lost.
"We were just terrible on offense the whole game," he said.
What makes it even tougher is that it was the only penalty Clemson had all game.
But even after that, Clemson still had two more shots to score a touchdown.
After second down was a gain of a yard by Proctor, it set up third-and-goal at the 8. But instead of trusting Proctor to make a smart and good throw into the end zone, a running play to Davis up the middle was called, which netted only three yards.
As a result, Jad Dean trotted on the field to kick the field goal and leave the Tigers with a precarious two-point lead with 2:25 remaining.
The third-down run is what had everybody in the press box scratching their head, and also several players afterwards.
"I was surprised," Davis said. "I knew they were just trying to get the field goal when they did call the run."
Bowden said he gave offensive coordinator Rob Spence a directive on what to run on those last plays.
"That was mine," Bowden said. "Maryland had not moved the ball very well in the second half. That was me. I told him to do that. Our defense had been playing good and I thought that was the best opportunity.
"We got all the way down there and never had the lead and I didn't want to risk a tip for an interception or one of those things."
There's still a chance that the Tigers could end up in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, which would make Gator Bowl officials there happy.
But in order for that to happen, Clemson has to beat N.C. State and finish with a conference record of 5-3. Should the Tigers manage to get to the Gator, bowl officials told CUTigers.com that a dream matchup would be Clemson against West Virginia, which is coached by former Tigers assistant Rich Rodriguez.
The other two likely places at this point are to the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, which is where Clemson played last season, and to Nashville for the Music City Bowl.
It could be just coincidence, but the four officials representing the Peach and Gator bowls left immediately after the game, while the official from the Champs Sports Bowl stayed for Bowden's press conference.
James Davis eclipsed the 1000-yard rushing mark to become only the 10th Clemson player to do that. … He needs just one more rushing touchdown to set the school record with 18. … He still needs two rushing touchdowns to tie the ACC record of 19. …
Defensive end Gaines Adams recorded a sack for the eighth consecutive game, which is only one away from the NCAA record of nine. … Adams also has 26 career sacks and needs just one more to tie William "The Refrigerator" Perry for second on the school's career list. He needs two more to tie Michael Dean Perry for first. …
Dean moved into sixth place on Clemson's all-time scoring list. … He also passed former kicker David Treadwell and moved into fifth place on the school's list for made field goals. The Greenwood native now has 48. … Ironically, Treadwell was in attendance today for the first time in five years. …
Former cornerback Justin Miller donated $50,000 to the WestZone Project and was in attendance. … Punter Cole Chason handled all the kickoff duties. … The Tigers had just one possession in the first quarter. … Bowden said he will wait until he view the film to determine whether personnel changes on offense will be made. …
Offensive tackle Christian Capote suffered a bruised hip in the third quarter and didn't return. He is expected to be fine for N.C. State. … Davis said he tweaked his sore ankle in the third quarter, which is why he sat out until those final plays.
Notebook: Red Zone Woes; Bowl Update
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