No. 10 CLEMSON 45, MARYLAND 10
By PETE IACOBELLI
CLEMSON — Tajh Boyd is focusing on what No. 10 Clemson can still accomplish. He’s also becoming a big Maryland fan, at least for a week.
Boyd threw for 261 yards and three touchdowns as Clemson trounced Maryland 45-10 on Saturday, the Tigers’ sixth straight win overall and record 12th in a row at Death Valley.
Clemson (9-1, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) kept on track for a second straight double-digit victory season. Yet it’s unlikely the defending ACC champs can supplant No. 8 Florida State as Atlantic Division winners and get a chance to win a second consecutive title.
Boyd watched with several teammates last Thursday night when the Seminoles, who defeated Clemson 49-37 back on Sept. 22, got a last-minute TD to squeak out a 28-22 win at Virginia Tech.
The Tigers’ lone hope is for these same Terps (4-6, 2-4) to rise up at home next week and defeat Florida State.
“As a fan, I was like, `Oh, man, that’s something,”’ Boyd said of Florida State’s comeback. “But we can’t worry about anything else other than what we have to do and that’s win all the games we have left.”
And there’s plenty out there if the Tigers do that. They’d achieve their first 11-win season – Clemson plays North Carolina State and rival South Carolina at home the next two weeks – since going 12-0 in their national championship season of 1981. They’d also extend the program’s longest home win streak.
“They’ve been playing football here for 116 years and I think it’s kind of special that this group did it,” offensive coordinator Chad Morris said.
Perhaps most of all, a successful finish might bring the Tigers a second straight bid to the BCS, something they’d desperately love given last year’s 70-33 Orange Bowl debacle against West Virginia.
All that, Boyd said, is for another day.
“There’s a standard we’re trying to play to each time we go out there,” he said.
Clemson set the standard early against the banged-up Terps, who again started linebacker Shawn Petty at quarterback because of season-ending injuries to their four scholarship passers.
The Tigers ended things early as Boyd threw for a 13-yard touchdown to Adam Humphries and a 28-yard score to DeAndre Hopkins. In between, defensive end Corey Crawford returned a fumble by Petty 16 yards for a touchdown as part of his team’s 21-point first quarter.
Clemson star receiver Sammy Watkins left the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury. He said he could’ve returned if the outcome had been in doubt, but the coaches decided not to take chances. Watkins is expected to play against the Wolfpack next week.
This one was a mismatch from the start, mostly because Maryland was still counting up its injured players. Besides the four scholarship quarterbacks lost for the season, Maryland was without leading tackler Demetrius Hartsfield because of a torn ACL and star freshman Stefon Diggs due to a bad ankle.
“These kids are fighting and battling and that’s what we’ll continue to do,” Maryland coach Randy Edsall said.
It was little surprise things got out of hand early. The Tigers scored on their second possession, Humphries stretching out in the end zone to make his first career touchdown grab.
Twelve seconds later, Petty was chased down by Crawford, who forced a fumble, scooped up the ball and scored.
The span between TDs was the shortest in Clemson history, bettering the 14 seconds it took former star Derrick Hamilton to score twice against Duke in 2003.
And Clemson wasn’t done. Petty fumbled again after he was sacked by Malliciah Goodman and the Tigers cashed in moments later on Boyd’s 28-yard scoring pass to Hopkins.
A Tigers mistake – Humphries muffed a punt catch inside his own 20 – led to Maryland’s lone score as Petty connected with Devonte Campbell. The Terrapins looked like they had something else going when they forced Boyd to fumble while driving for touchdown on their own 1 and tailback Brandon Ross followed with a 44-yard run to midfield.
But Petty was sacked for a loss of 15, Maryland punted and Clemson began a 66-yard drive that ended on Andre Ellington’s 6-yard touchdown run for a 35-7 lead.
It was the third straight game the Tigers put up 35 points or more in the first half, a program first.
Clemson outgained Maryland 310 yards to 90 in the opening half.
Petty hung tough, but struggled against Clemson’s defense. He finished 6 of 11 for 41 yards and a touchdown. He also fumbled twice.
Edsall acknowledged Petty is in a difficult spot, adding the coaches have stressed to him the need to take care of the ball. The Terps were also 1 of 13 on third down tries.
“You just can’t do that against a top-ten team in the country,” he said.
Ross gained 100 yards on 16 carries for Maryland, whose 180 yards of offense were a season low.