Terps defense vows to reroute Clemson's end zone traffic

September 14, 1990|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Evening Sun Staff

To a man, they vow it won't happen again. Clemson won't run off and hide. This time they will keep the Tigers in check.

"We're playing good team defense," said Mike Hollis, Maryland's senior left cornerback. "Back then, we weren't playing 100 percent all four quarters. We are now."

It is a matter of record that Maryland has been outscored 125-48 in losing to Clemson three straight years. Each time the Tigers were ranked No. 16 or higher and each time they played like they deserved the position.

Another Maryland-Clemson encounter is at hand. The Terps, off to their best start since 1986 at 2-0, will entertain the No. 16 Tigers (1-1) tomorrow (noon) at Memorial Stadium. The last time the teams met in Baltimore, four years ago, they played to a 17-17 tie.

The lopsided defeats to Clemson the last three years still rankle the Terps, especially the seniors.

The ugly string started with a 45-16 loss at ninth-ranked Clemson 1987. The Tigers intercepted four passes, had almost 38 minutes of possession time to Maryland's 22 and outrushed the Terps, 355 yards to 72. Terry Allen and Wesley McFadden each ran for more than 100 yards.

"It was like Omaha Beach," said Maryland coach Joe Krivak, referring to the onslaught after Maryland took a short-lived advantage on a pass from Neil O'Donnell to Ferrell Edmunds. "They put our lights out."

"They overpowered us," said receiver Barry Johnson. "They rolled."

"They outphysicaled us," Hollis recalled.

The 1988 game, played at Byrd Stadium, was for the Atlantic Coast Conference title. After three quarters, 16th-ranked Clemson was up, 21-17, then put the Terps away with a 28-point final period for a 49-25 victory.

"They beat us bad, dominated us," said offensive tackle O'Neil Glenn. "It was terrible."

"It was a question of speed," Krivak said. "They had great athletes and eventually they took over."

"One of the key plays was the punt Clemson blocked," said center Mitch Suplee, the snapper that day. "The snap was good and the punter's release was good, but someone came through clean and took it off his foot."

Once he saw the game was in ruins, Krivak removed O'Donnell and put in Scott Zolak. Now the Terps' starter, Zolak completed six of 10 passes.

"We were down, so they wanted to give me time," Zolak said.

Last year, the Terps left a day early for Clemson because of Hurricane Hugo and ran into a hurricane of a different sort in the stadium known as Death Valley. The game was over by halftime. The No. 7 Tigers scored 21 points in the second quarter and romped, 31-7.

"There were 85,000 people screaming their heads off," Suplee said. "I was warned about it, but I still wasn't prepared for it. As the center, I have to make line calls and everyone has to hear me. When the crowd's into it like that, screaming, it takes away from your concentration."

Ken Oberle, a senior offensive guard, started the game but was unceremoniously yanked.

"I gave up a sack in the second quarter," he said. "As a result, I didn't play much after that."

Zolak again saw action in relief of O'Donnell, but for a different reason. O'Donnell bruised his hand in the first half.

"It was the best defense I've played against," Zolak said. "They have a lot of tough guys who fly to the ball."

"They're punishing," Johnson said. "We'll have to play the same way to beat them."

All week, Krivak has been telling anyone willing to listen that three straight losses to Clemson do not represent an ominous sign. He and his players would like to think that Clemson's loss to Virginia last week is more indicative of the Tigers' muscle, or the lack of it.

"The thing about 1987, '88 and '89," Krivak said, "is that they have no bearing on this year."

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