Maryland/Clemson Classic- 2008

TSR looks back to when the Terps traveled to Clemson and left with a 20-17 win.

One word can be used to describe the Maryland Terrapins’ performance through the early part of the 2008 football season: unpredictable.

The Terps started the season with a home matchup with FCS opponent Delaware. An easy blowout victory, right?

Wrong. Maryland struggled through an uninspiring 14-7 win that went down to the wire.

Next up: their first road game at Sun Belt Conference patsy Middle Tennessee State and another chance to ease into the season before the ACC schedule began.

However, the Terps laid an egg as quarterback Chris Turner threw three interceptions in a 24-14 defeat.

So Maryland fans were pleasantly surprised when the Terps rebounded the next week to defeat No. 23 Cal rather emphatically in a game not nearly as close as its 35-27 score.

Two weeks after the Cal triumph in College Park, the Terps traveled to Clemson owners of a 3-1 record.

Once again the Terps showed their unpredictable nature. Early in the third quarter, an offense that had put up 51 points on Eastern Michigan the week before had mustered fewer than a hundred yards and only two field goals and trailed the Tigers 17-6.

But it only took one play from the Terps’ biggest playmaker to turn the game around.

Darrius Heyward-Bey took a reverse 76 yards to the Clemson 4-yard line and, in a flash, the sluggish Maryland offense was knocking on the door.

Two plays later, Turner hit wide receiver Torrey Smith from six yards out to get the Terps back into the game.

Maryland started slowly out of the gate, surrendering the game’s first 10 points in the opening quarter.

Clemson came into the game with the No. 20 ranking and one of the game’s best dynamic duos in running backs C.J. Spiller and James Davis.

The two backs accounted for 50 yards on the Tigers’ first drive, which culminated in a Mark Buccholz 26-yard field goal.

On their next possession, it was Spiller who scored the game’s first touchdown when his 35-yard jaunt capped off a 95-yard scoring drive.

However, the Terps responded thanks in part to two key Clemson fumbles.

Following a three-and-out late in the first quarter, Maryland called on punter Travis Baltz. Clemson wide receiver Jacoby Ford mishandled Baltz’s punt, and the Terps recovered at the 17-yard line to set up an Obi Egekeze 23-yard field goal.

Egekeze connected on another field goal, this time from 30 yards, after linebacker Adrian Moten recovered a fumble after the sack of Tigers quarterback Cullen Harper.

But the Tigers responded quickly when Davis scored on a 38-yard scamper to cap a six-play, 80-yard drive. The Tigers took a 17-6 lead into the half.

Davis finished the day with 126 yards on 17 carries, while Spiller ran for 98 yards on 14 carries. The two star backs averaged over seven yards per carry.

Despite the Terps’ inability to stop the run, they responded in the second half.

Smith’s touchdown, set up by Heyward-Bey, cut the lead to 17-13 with just under nine minutes in the third quarter.

The Terps defense stepped up to force four straight Clemson punts to start the second half, including one after a quick three-and-out to start the fourth quarter.

With just over 13 minutes remaining in the game, the Terps offense took over at the Clemson 45-yard line. In just under three minutes, the Terps took their first lead.

The star of the drive was wide receiver Danny Oquendo. Following a 2-yard loss on the first play of the drive, an Oquendo 11-yard reception set up a manageable 3rd and 1.

Running back Da’Rel Scott picked up the first down with a 2-yard run to set the stage for two more big Oquendo catches. A 21-yard connection from Turner to the senior wide receiver followed a 12-yard reception to set the Terps up with a 1st and Goal at the Clemson 1-yard line.

Scott punched it in on first down to put the Terps up 20-17.

Oquendo finished the day with four catches, three of them coming on the key scoring drive, for 49 yards.

Turner did a good job of managing the game, completing 16 of 30 passes for 172 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.

The Tigers took over at their own 21-yard line with over 10 minutes remaining. A series of Harper completions and Davis runs helped set up Clemson with a first down at midfield.

However, a personal foul penalty after a seven-yard gain by Davis on second down put the Tigers in a 3rd and 18 hole.

A 17-yard Spiller reception set up a 4th and 1 at the Maryland 41, but the Terps’ defense was stout in denying Harper the yard on a fourth down attempt.

The Terps picked up two key third down conversions to melt to the last 5:36 on the clock and seal a surprising 20-17 victory.

The victory, over a preseason top ten team, was one of the Maryland’s best triumphs on the year. Though the Tigers would eventually prove to be hugely overrated and finish 7-6, the Terps defied all odds in staging a fourth quarter comeback on the road in their ACC opener.

The Terps would again score a surprising victory over Clemson in 2009, notching their only win against an FBS opponent on the season.

Maryland will attempt to equal its road record after failing their only road test in Morgantown three weeks. Though the Tigers have lost three in a row to drop to 2-3, they have lost to good competition in Auburn, Miami, and North Carolina by a combined 17 points.

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