Maryland's 30-17 loss to Clemson wouldn't make for a particularly jubilant locker room anyway. But with the list of the wounded and inactive, already several starters and backups strong and continuing to build after tonight, feelings of hopelessness and incredulity began to surface. At 4-4 overall and 1-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the hope is to finish the season with no more casualties and make a bowl game, a far cry from what the expectations were just two games ago.
"We're not the team we were, physically," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said.
A MASH unit is what the Terrapin lineup looked like, and with the attrition, this type of game was going to happen eventually. There just aren't enough healthy, experienced bodies to do what was once expected out of this team—run the ball successfully for 60 minutes, control time of possession and wear down the opponent. And tonight, there weren't even enough keep pace with Clemson.
When Maryland went three and out on its first possession of the second half, already trailing 20-3, the result was all but a foregone conclusion. The issue then became how ugly the sight would be for what remained of the 50,948 fans. The answer was a resounding "very."
On a Byrd Stadium field ravaged and faded by the week's rain, Clemson running backs James Davis and C.J. Spiller had no problems finding their footing. It was almost as if they weren't affected by the sloppy conditions at all—they cut on a dime and turned corners while leaving Terrapin defenders lying in the mud. Davis ran for 129 yards and a touchdown and Spiller added 106.
Quarterback Cullen Harper, who came into the game leading the ACC in passing efficiency, was as precise as it gets. He completed 20-of-26 passes for 179 yards in a supporting role to Clemson's backfield duo.
"We didn't tackle anybody, myself included," Henderson said. "They're good backs, we knew they were good backs coming into the game. We did a good job of tackling last year and keeping contain, but we didn't get it done today."
It was the fourth time Spiller and Davis ran for over a hundred yards each in the same game. They combined for 149 yards in the first half and it was an ominous sign, considering Maryland's defense this season has played markedly better in that half.
Very early on, though, it looked as if Maryland might have caught the Tigers on a bad day. Their opening drive ended on a missed 41-yard field goal, and the Terps took a 3-0 lead after converting their chance. On just the second play of the Clemson's ensuing possession, Dre Moore caused Harper to fumble, and Trey Covington recovered it at Clemson's 40.
After two Keon Lattimore runs totaling 16 yards got Maryland down to Clemson's 24 yard line, Terps quarterback Chris Turner couldn't handle the center exchange and Clemson fell on the ball.
That's when things went south, fast.
Clemson's next four drives went field goal, touchdown, touchdown, field goal. The last score was set up by a Turner interception in Maryland territory with just over a minute remaining in the half.
On top of it all, the injuries to the already depleted offensive line continued to mount. Bruce Campbell, who started at left tackle in place of the injured Scott Burley, limped off the field and was taken to the locker room for X-rays. Burley, who injured his ankle in practice this week, replaced Campbell, even though Friedgen wanted to keep him out. Friedgen feared Campbell had suffered the same injury that knocked Andrew Crummey and Jaimie Thomas out for the season, but the initial X-rays came back negative.
Center Edwin Williams had to come out for a play due to injury, forcing Phil Costa to slide to his spot and walk-on Paul Pinegar to enter for Costa. Tight end Dan Gronkowski injured his anterior cruciate ligament, the extent to which is unknown.
"You're shocking me," said Turner after being told by a reporter about the additional injuries. "That changes a lot. We're real thin now. I mean I don't even know where we go at this point."
After Clemson extended its lead to 30-3 in the fourth quarter, Turner led two scoring drives to make the final score look respectable. He finished 19-of-31 for 217 yards with nine of those completions coming on the final two drives. The quarterback play, though, would be the least of the team's worries right now.
The goal for the season turns to simply making a bowl. With three of the final four games on the road, and the lone home contest coming against No. 2 Boston College, it's not going to be easy. Friedgen hopes a couple names—defensive tackle Travis Ivey and fullback Cory Jackson—come off the injury list for next week's game at North Carolina, but it's not certain.
After tonight's game, reality began to set in for the Friedgen and the Terrapin players. There will be no ACC championship. High hopes that once surrounded this team turn to hopes of just surviving the rest of the season. With attrition that Friedgen said he has never experienced in 39 years of coaching, he has to find 22 guys that might be able to win two more games to be bowl eligible.
"Getting to a bowl--," Friedgen said, "with what this team is going through--would be a good season."
Clemson dominates injury-riddled Terps
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