In their 62nd all-time meeting Clemson struggled to convert in the red zone and hold onto the football, yet managed to post 40 points in a 13-point road win. In doing so they pushed their win streak in games away from Death Valley to seven and their streak of double-digit wins over unranked opponents to 15.
This was a frustrating win, but a win just the same. All season long Clemson fans have been wishing Tajh Boyd would run the ball less for fear of injury. With Boyd nursing a bum ankle, Chad Morris went out of his way to avoid running Tajh this week. The negative impact on the red zone offense was clear. Despite trying to avoid using Boyd as a rusher, on one play he was forced to scramble out of the pocket and twisted his knee after a solid pick-up. He was able to play through it and eventually Morris gave in and had him score on a designed run play from the five yard line. Morris said they would be back to running Tajh next week in Virginia.
I absolutely love having a dual-threat QB, however with the thumb injury against Syracuse, the ankle against FSU, and now the knee against Maryland he is taking a beating. Clemson's heavy reliance on that attack, namely in the red zone, is troubling, especially considering QB Cole Stoudt won't provide this option next season. Does that mean Chad Morris opts to use Chad Kelly or Deshaun Watson? I hope not.
Those two touchdowns from Roderick McDowell were his first two of the season. I was very pleased to see him break through with his first two scores and a season-high 161 yards. Hopefully it's a sign of things to come.
Jordan Leggett had a huge play that gave Clemson their first touchdown shortly before the end of the first half. It sounds like he will be seeing the field more often. Sam Cooper hasn't done a whole lot since coming back from ACL surgery and I imagine he isn't 100%. He came back ridiculously quick from the injury so he shouldn't be criticized. Stanton Seckinger struggled again and we all love the guy, but Leggett may be taking some of his snaps moving forward. Leggett just needs to give a better effort during practice. His quotes about not trying hard during practice are shameful so hopefully that gets taken care of because he has a lot of talent and is ready to contribute.
Sammy Watkins had a huge day and carried the offense during the first half. He ended with a school record 14 catches. He did fumble in the second half though, as did McDowell. Boyd also threw a late INT, though it may have been the receiver's (Mike Williams) fault. This has been an strange spell of turnovers the past three games after so few in the first part of the season. They absolutely need to figure this out. They can probably turn it over six times and still win in Charlottesville (GT beat UVA by 10 even with five turnovers on Saturday), but they won't beat Georgia Tech or South Carolina if this continues. Fortunately, we have UVA and a bye week to work it out before GT rolls into town.
Stepping back and looking at Maryland more broadly, it was a good road trip. I had never been to College Park and was extremely underwhelmed. I was expecting a poor mans Athens, but didn't get anything close. UMD alumni warned me not to bother venturing downtown or trying to get crab cakes nearby. It seemed like all the students used to Metro (train) to head into D.C. whenever they wanted to do something fun. D.C. exceeded my expectations and I saw a few Clemson folks wondering around D.C. Sunday. This was a great ACC road trip due to it's proximity to Washington, but once you've toured the monuments and museums, UMD becomes a long trip to a very average venue. Byrd wasn't one of the top ACC stadiums I've visited and it was brutally cold.
This was a bit of a good riddance trip for the Tigers. I'm tired of playing the Terps. They always seem to give us trouble despite not being very good. Ralph Friedgen had a winning record against Clemson while at Maryland, and Dabo lost to them in 2009 when their only other win was over James Madison. Thank goodness we don't have to play there again.
That being said, I learned some pretty interesting history about Maryland, Clemson, and the ACC this week. Evidently, Maryland and Clemson were the class of the SoCon back in the 50s. When the conference tried to block members from participating in bowl games, Clemson and Maryland did it anyway. The SoCon more or less booted them from the conference and they banded together and convinced five other schools to join them and form the ACC. Maryland would win the NCAA National Championship in the ACC's first season (1953).
Clemson and Maryland have battled in 62 consecutive years, many of those in huge games, especially in the 80s. The series is fairly even at 34-26-2 in Clemson's favor. Let's be honest though, despite all the history, nobody on either side seems to have any interest whatsoever in keeping this going in the non-conference slate. That says a lot. This is far from a rivalry and I don't think many Clemson fans will miss seeing Maryland on their schedule.
Louisville will be a lot more fun to play and from the fans I've seen on Twitter they have a pretty solid following that cares about football even though it is a basketball school. I don't think Louisville will be ultra-competitive in the ACC, but I do expect them to be better than Maryland not only in football, but also in baseball and basketball.