COLLEGE PARK -- One week after suffering one of the most humiliating defeats in school history, Maryland turned in its most inspiring and complete game in the season finale as the Terps defeated Clemson, 53-23, at Byrd Stadium yesterday before a crowd of 25,223.
This is no misprint. It was a Maryland blowout.
The highly motivated Terps (3-8 overall, 2-6 Atlantic Coast Conference), spurred on by their 28 seniors playing their last game and a 69-21 loss to Florida State last Saturday, embarrassed Clemson (5-5, 3-5) and ruined the Tigers' chances of going to an eighth straight bowl.
The Tigers had to finish with a winning record against Division I-A teams to be in consideration for a bowl bid. That meant they had to beat Maryland and their final opponent, South Carolina.
Say goodbye to a possible berth in the Poulan Weed-Eater Independence Bowl.
"Don't play us for dead," said Mike Jarmolowich, Maryland's senior linebacker who was in uniform five hours before yesterday's game. "We showed a lot of pride after getting embarrassed last week.
"We had a lot of guys on defense flying around out there, a lot of guys having fun. We knew we could beat them. They got frustrated. They were planning for a bowl bid and we ruined it. That's kind of cool."
Senior defensive tackle Darren Drozdov said: "I have had only one winning season here in five years, so all I wanted to do was go out a winner. And we win by 30 points, against Clemson, a team that has run up the score on us in the past. This is great. Unbelievable."
There was a lot of trash talking by the Terps yesterday, but who could blame them?
They ran up a season-high 573 yards against the best defense in the ACC, including a school record of 418 passing by quarterback John Kaleo. The passing combination of Kaleo to Marcus Badgett gave Terps fans one more show as they combined for nine receptions for 184 yards and two touchdowns. Maryland also scored on a "fumblerooski" to guard Ron Staffileno and on a fourth-and-17 pass for a touchdown to senior Dan Prunzik.
Even the secondary played well, knocking down five passes and not giving up the big play. Maryland had a 46-23 lead with 10:05 left in the game, and scored on a Richie Harris touchdown pass in the remaining time to give Maryland its first victory over the Tigers since 1985.
"When you get beat on offense, defense and coaching, it is a total, complete wipeout," said Clemson coach Ken Hatfield, whose job was already rumored to be in jeopardy. "Last week's Florida State game made Maryland so mad that they came out here at home and did whatever they wanted to do."
Actually, Maryland became even more inspired Friday night. That's when Maryland coach Mark Duffner showed a highlight film of all the seniors, and each senior gave a little speech to the team on what Maryland football meant to them.
"It was real emotional," said Maryland senior cornerback Scott Rosen. "Big guys were crying. Little guys were crying. You could feel the excitement in the locker room today. Guys couldn't wait to get out there and stick somebody."
Clemson came into the game with the nation's fourth-best rushing offense, averaging 275.2 yards. The Tigers left with only 120 yards rushing, one touchdown and five field goals by Nelson Welch.
But part of Clemson's lack of a running attack has to be blamed on the Tigers' coaching staff. They came out throwing, trying to challenge Maryland's secondary, which was allowing an average 321 yards passing a game.
But Clemson quarterback Patrick Sapp was only 25 of 55 for 273 yards. One pass was intercepted by Rosen to set up a Terps touchdown.
"We wanted them to come out throwing," said Rosen. "We got our butts kicked so bad against Florida State that we wanted to avenge ourselves. I think we did."
While Clemson was getting most of its scoring from Welch, the Terps were shredding the Tigers' secondary. Kaleo was TTC throwing high in the Terps' first two series of the game, but on Maryland's third possession he threw a 26-yard pass to Jermaine Lewis, and using the runs of superback Frank Wycheck (162 yards rushing), got the Terps down to the 1-yard line. Then with 11:20 left in the half, Wycheck dove over from there to give Maryland a 7-6 lead.
Maryland scored on its next two possessions. Lewis caught a 24-yardpass across the middle, and turned it into a 69-yard touchdown. Then with 4:03 left in the half, Kaleo underthrew Badgett in the left corner of the end zone, but Badgett still managed to make the catch over Clemson defensive back Norris Brown for the touchdown that put Maryland ahead, 20-3. Welch connected on a 32-yard field goal with three seconds left to cut Maryland's lead to 20-12 at the half.
Most teams that had been burned by Maryland's run-and-shoot offense in the first half changed their scheme in the second. Not Clemson. The Tigers stayed with a three-man rush. Maryland kept toasting their secondary.
"It wasn't your typical Clemson team," said Badgett. "When you used to throw on those guys, they would bring so much pressure it looked like a bunch of them were coming from the sideline. This time they stayed with the same defense."
Perhaps the biggest play of the game occurred on Clemson's first possession of the second half, when wide receiver Larry Ryans took a lateral on a reverse to the left, only to be hit and have his fumble recovered by Maryland free safety Angel Guerra at the Tigers' 30.
One play later, right guard Ron Staffileno ran around left end for an 11-yard touchdown on the "fumblerooski." Kaleo took the snap from center, but left the ball on the ground. Staffileno picked the ball up and went in for the touchdown.
Staffileno didn't remind anyone of O.J. Simpson clutching the ball like a kid with his last piece of candy.
"We had talked about it at halftime, and they said we were going to use it once we got by the 50," said Staffileno. "I was a little nervous, but it worked just like we drew it up. That play gave us a lot of momentum."
Maryland put the game away with 1:12 left in the third period. On fourth-and-17 from the Clemson 17, Duffner went for the touchdown.
Kaleo was flushed from the pocket. Moving to his right, he passed to slot receiver Prunzik in the end zone as Maryland went ahead, 33-17.
"We decided to go for it because we thought we were out of DeArmas' range going into the wind," said Duffner, whose team finished the year with 31 new team records and tied for another. "John and Dan both executed the play well.
"Last week we talked in the locker room after the game that we were going to leave that game on the field and everyone was going to dedicate everything that they possibly could to Clemson. We came out and battled, and got it done big time."