Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Banged-up Terps take on high-powered Clemson

COLLEGE PARK - When Maryland and Clemson meet on Saturday, both teams will try to erase the memory of a disappointing loss last week.
But the similarity between the two teams ends there.
Maryland started the season 4-0 against non-conference competition, even creeping into the Associated Press college football poll at No. 25 for a week. The Terrapins (5-2, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) have struggled mightily since. Injuries and stiffer competition have led to blowout losses in two of the last three games. The only victory during that string - a 27-26 decision over Virginia - wasn't clinched until the Cavaliers' last-second field-goal attempt sailed wide right.
Clemson, on the other hand, looked like one of the best teams in the country - until last week. The Tigers (6-1, 4-1 ACC) won their first six games and climbed to No. 3 in the polls before Florida State embarrassed them last week, 51-14.
From what Clemson coach Dabo Sweeney said this week, the Tigers are determined to prove last week's outcome was just a hiccup.
"Obviously, we're coming off a very disappointing performance and loss this past Saturday night to a great football team in Florida State," he said during the weekly ACC coaches' teleconference. "But I'm really proud of our guys for how they've responded this week. We've had a really good couple of days [at practice] and are just refocusing, getting dialed in on what we've got to do to play better football and give ourselves a chance to win another game."
The Terrapins' situation this weak is far more grim. They need one more victory to achieve bowl-eligibility. Given the depleted state of the current roster, that one victory may be hard to come by.
What nobody wants is a repeat of last season's injury-plagued fade that featured six straight losses to close the 2012 campaign.
"I've experienced a lot of things in the last couple years that I haven't experienced before when it comes to injuries," Maryland coach Randy Edsall said this week.
Starting quarterback C.J. Brown (trunk) won't play against Clemson. Neither will starting tailback and leading rusher Brandon Ross (shoulder) nor starting tight end Dave Stinebaugh (knee). The Terrapins' two most dangerous wideouts - Stefon Diggs and Deon Long - suffered broken legs last week and will miss the rest of the season.
As a result of all those injuries, Maryland will face the Tigers with backups starting at quarterback (Caleb Rowe), running back (Albert Reid), two wide receiver positions (Amba Etta-Tawo and Levern Jacobs) and tight end (P.J. Gallo).
At last, Rowe has some experience. He started once last year and stepped in earlier this year when Brown missed the Virginia game with a concussion. Rowe, who is considered the best passer on the team, threw for 332 yards against the Cavaliers.
Clemson has no such concerns about its offensive personnel, having averaged 37 points per game this season. Quarterback Tahj Boyd, a senior, has thrown for 9,992 yards in his career, ranking No. 3 all-time on the ACC's career passing yardage list.
Maryland is all too familiar with Boyd's abilities. Two years ago, he threw four touchdown passes in Clemson's last trip to College Park and added three touchdown passes and 261 yards in last year's 45-10 victory in South Carolina.
"He's a really good quarterback, a really good leader," Edsall said. "He throws the ball extremely well, gets the ball to his playmakers, doesn't make a lot of mistakes, and is somebody that we have a tremendous amount of respect for. "
His primary target is explosive wide receiver Sammy Watkins, whose 44 catches this season are more than Maryland's three starting receivers put together. He showed what he was capable of in the last Maryland-Clemson matchup at Byrd with a school-record 345 total yards (receiving, running and returns) and a pair of touchdowns in a wild 56-45 Tigers' victory.
That pair will challenge a Maryland defense that is also banged up. Four defensive players who started the season opener against Florida International sat out last week's game against Wake Forest. One of them - linebacker Matt Robinson - is expected to return against Clemson. But starting safety Anthony Nixon (toe) won't be available after starting every game this season.
At least partly because of the personnel shuffling, the Terrapins have not been able to force a turnover in the last three games and have recorded only two sacks during that same stretch, which coincided with the start of conference play.
NOTES: Clemson also boasts one of the ACC's most dangerous pass-rushers in junior Vic Beasley. Beasley leads the conference in sacks with nine through seven games.