That's not to say it wasn't entertaining. After a week filled with QB controversy, C.J. Brown trotted out onto Capital One Field as the Terps' starting quarterback; the first time in 15 games that sophomore Danny O'Brien wasn't under center. Brown and the Maryland offense put on a first-half show for the 47,961 in attendance.
A fumbled fair catch by Clemson freshman standout Sammy Watkins put Maryland within the Tigers' 10 early in the first quarter. A few plays later senior running back Davin Meggett cashed in with a 9-yard run, giving the Terps a 7-3 lead early.
Brown dazzled with his feet throughout the first two quarters, rushing 8 times for 87 yards, highlighted by a 21-yard touchdown dash. The Tigers' defense had no answer for the blazing fast speed of the Maryland sophomore.
Sophomore quarterback Tajh Boyd was shaky in the first half, throwing two passes in one drive that slipped in and out of the hands of Maryland defenders. The third time however, he wasn't so lucky. The ultimate playmaker, Cameron Chism, hauled in a first quarter pass from Boyd and took it 46 yards for the score. With the touchdown, Chism became only the 3rd Terp ever to have two interceptions returned for scores in one season.
Everything seemed to be rolling for Maryland, as their defense was holding their own, stopping the potent Clemson attack when necessary and on multiple occasions limiting red zone trips to field goals. As the clock ran out on the second quarter, a confident Maryland team trotted into Gossett Team House with a 28-17 lead in front of a boisterous Byrd Stadium.
Unfortunately for Maryland, it was a tale of two halves. After a 22-yard touchdown pass to Matt Furstenburg to start the second half, Clemson took over every facet of the game.
The Tigers went on a stretch where they scored three touchdowns in 7:21 and absolutely torched the Maryland defense. Tajh Boyd threw for 177 of his 270 yards in the second half, and tossed three touchdown passes, two to Sammy Watkins.
Watkins, who got off to a shaky start after fumbling the punt in the first quarter, did quite a bit to redeem himself. The freshman totaled 345 all-purpose yards on the evening (33 rushing, 105 receiving and 207 return yards), breaking C.J. Spiller's school record of 312. Watkins became only the second Clemson freshman ever to score three touchdowns in one game.
Perhaps his biggest play came when it mattered most. After going ahead 42-38 on a Jaron Brown touchdown reception with 11:26 remaining, C.J. Brown and the offense orchestrated a methodical, time-consuming drive, ending in a 32-yard touchdown reception by Matt Furstenburg to give the lead, and the momentum back to Maryland. Byrd Stadium barely even got a chance to celebrate however, as on the proceeding kickoff Watkins blazed through the Maryland special teams en route to an 89-yard touchdown.
The defense was ready to step up and put everything behind us, said junior Joe Vellano, who recorded 11 tackles on the night. And then we didn't even really get a shot at it with that kickoff return.
With 7:24 remaining in the game, the Terps still had a shot only down 49-45, even after the offense couldn't convert on fourth down. Yet, a 44-yard run by running back Andre Ellington, who went for a team high 213 yards on 24 carries, crushed any hopes of a Maryland victory with 3:55 remaining.
We didn't finish it the way we would have liked to, said Randy Edsall after the game. I told them in the locker room that I thought we had great effort. Effort doesn't get us wins.
A defeated Maryland fan base quickly poured out of Byrd Stadium, leaving only a section of orange and purple to watch the final few minutes.
The Terps' run stopping woes were at a season-high Saturday night, allowing 306 rushing yards and 576 yards overall. On the offensive side, Brown led the team with 22 carries for 162 yards and one touchdown and was 17 of 35 passing for 177 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Matt Furstenburg was the Terps' top receiver on the evening, catching five passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns.
After the game, head coach Randy Edsall was less than talkative with the media, steering his way around probing questions with generic responses. This was a tough one, he remarked. I thought that we did some good things tonight. We just didn't play consistently good enough for the 60 minutes. We will come back in tomorrow and watch the tape.
The Maryland players were more forthright with their disappointment.
You get sick and tired of coming close and not getting the win, said junior defensive back Eric Franklin.
Of course it's a positive that the Terps have played two nationally ranked teams quite closely in the past two weeks, but at this point nobody is willing to revel in any type of moral victory. They don't judge you on how close you were, added senior running back Davin Meggett. You either win or you don't.
Despite the heartbreak of the defeat, there was a great deal of excitement surrounding the play of C.J. Brown on the evening. Getting my first start was exciting and I was nervous but I had the energy, said Brown. It felt good to get out there and show what I can do. It's disappointing that we came up short, but playing a top 10 team in Byrd, it was a great atmosphere. The guys left it out on the line and it's just unfortunate we wouldn't get it in the end.
Edsall, who again was anything but revealing in his post-game conference, had very little to say about any quarterback questions he may still have after Brown's performance. I have to watch the film but looking at the numbers you can see that C.J. did a lot of good things out there. I have to look at the film before I make a lot of comments.
There's no rest for the Terps though, as next weekend they travel down to Tallahassee to take on a tough Florida State team. Until then however, it will be one long week in College Park for the football team, wondering what could have been.