Terps face uphill fight down in Death Valley Clemson can seal ACC title with win

November 16, 1991|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Staff Correspondent

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Maryland appears to be on mission impossible today when the Terps play Clemson at noon in an Atlantic Coast Conference game.

The game will be played at Memorial Stadium, also known as Death Valley, where the Tigers (6-1-1, 4-0-1 ACC) have gone 12 straight games without a loss.

Clemson is ranked No. 15 and could win the ACC title and earn a trip to the Florida Citrus Bowl with a victory over the Terps (2-7, 2-3). The Tigers have not lost to Maryland since 1985, even though the Terps managed a 17-17 tie in 1986.

"How can we not be focused on Maryland with the ACC title at stake?" said Clemson senior linebacker Levon Kirkland, whose team last won the title in 1988. "We're not about to overlook them. The key for us is a good jump-start. We can't let them score early and jump all over us."

The Terps are looking at the game as a chance to show they have not quit on the season.

In the past two weeks, Maryland has been routed by North Carolina, 24-0, and Penn State, 47-7. Terps coach Joe Krivak's status is questionable for next season, even though he is in the first year of a guaranteed four-year contract worth $94,000 per season.

Krivak has compiled a 20-32-2 record in five years at Maryland with only one winning season, a 6-5-1 mark a year ago.

"Morale is low, and that's expected because no one expected us to be at 2-7," said Maryland senior quarterback Jim Sandwisch, who has drawn as much criticism as Krivak for the dismal season by completing only 119 of 245 passes for 1,189 yards with 11 interceptions.

"I've heard the stories about the alumni complaining about the coach, but the players are still giving the effort in practice, and Coach remains upbeat. He won't quit, and there is no quit in this team."

Added Krivak: "I said we had a chance to be a competitive team and win some games if we stayed healthy. That hasn't happened. I think we've lost between eight and 10 people that we opened up with against Virginia.

"There are other circumstances [schedule, academic standards] that make this job tough, and the sooner people come to realize that, the better off everyone will be."

The job won't get any easier against Clemson. The Tigers are second in the country in total defense, allowing 245 yards per game. Clemson uses five linebackers -- Kirkland, Chuck O'Brien, Ed McDaniel, Ashely Sheppard, Wayne Simmons-- who may be the best group, with no apologies to Penn State, in the country.

Offensively, Clemson is a run-oriented team averaging 244.5 yards. The Tigers may be without starting tailback Ronald Williams, who is questionable with a shoulder injury.

"Defensively, I'd say they're close to Penn State, only maybe they're a little bigger," Krivak said. "Clemson traditionally wins with their defense."

Maryland is averaging only 275.6 yards of total offense while allowing 413.8.

"Maryland is looking to make their season on us, being in the spoiler's role," Clemson coach Ken Hatfield said. "It's their whole season. When you're at 2-7, you're thankful to be playing someone like Clemson late in the year for the opportunity of something big to happen. That's what we've got to guard against. They're dangerous."

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