UM still parched in Death Valley

October 02, 1994|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Staff Writer

CLEMSON, S.C. -- The claim around the Atlantic Coast Conference is that Death Valley hasn't been as inhospitable to visitors since Danny Ford left town.

Try telling that to Maryland.

It doesn't matter if Clemson is coached by Ford, Ken Hatfield or Tommy West, or if there are 40,000 or 80,000 making noise, the result is the same when the Terps visit. Points, let alone victories, are hard to come by here for Maryland, which yesterday stumbled to a 13-0 loss to the Tigers before an announced crowd of 68,000.

Maryland has 10 victories at Clemson, more than any other school, but the Terps have lost five in a row at Memorial Stadium here by a combined score of 158-29. It was the second straight year Maryland was shut out at Clemson. The Terps last scored a point here in the first quarter of a 40-7 loss in 1991.

"It's a tough place to play, doesn't matter if they're struggling or not," said Jamie Bragg, who went both ways in 85-degree heat. "The people are waiting for the old Clemson to return, but I don't think the mystique is gone.

"That doesn't matter, because there are no excuses for this loss. We killed ourselves with penalties and mistakes. The offense is supposed to be the strength of this team, and it's time we lived up to our potential."

Clemson (2-2, 1-2), which had a 29-12 loss at home to North Carolina State in its ACC opener Sept. 10, made the most of a week off and avoided its first 0-3 start in the ACC.

The Tigers retooled their offense, replacing drop-back passer Patrick Sapp with option specialist Louis Solomon, and moving Antwuan Wyatt from wide receiver to tailback. Defensively, they came up with some schemes that befuddled the Terps, who were 1-for-12 on third-down conversions and couldn't move under starting quarterback Kevin Foley or Scott Milanovich.

"We took pride in playing in Death Valley," said West, who was hired last December, after Hatfield's contract was bought out at the end of an 8-3 regular season. "Offensively, it wasn't pretty. Defensively, Maryland didn't have many catches when we didn't have somebody there to hit them."

The Terps wasted another decent effort by their young defense, which gave up 347 yards. Maryland was limited to 229 yards, one of the lowest productions in three years under coach Mark Duffner, and equally significant, the Terps lost three interceptions and a fumble.

All of Clemson's points followed Maryland turnovers, the decisive factor in the Terps (2-3, 1-3) not getting their first three-game win streak since 1986.

"We just couldn't get going offensively," Duffner said. "It wasn't as smooth an operation as we would like to have. The defense kept holding Clemson to field goals. . . . When we would get to close to scoring, we would turn it over. You can't win that way."

The team effort for Clemson included a boost from its fans, who were legendary for their support when Ford coached the Tigers to the national title in 1981, but stayed away last year. They made themselves heard on a third-quarter play that buried the Terps.

The Tigers enjoyed a 10-0 lead at the half, but Foley drove the Terps from their 18-yard line to the Clemson 10 midway through the third quarter. On first-and-five after a Tigers penalty, Foley used every second of the play clock to audible over the crescendo of the crowd, then overthrew Geroy Simon on the right side. Cornerback Peter Ford intercepted the pass on the 2, and only the hustle of offensive tackle John Teter averted a 98-yard touchdown return.

It was one of many mistakes by the Terps' run-and-shoot offense, which was shut out for the third time in 11 games. The first mistake came in the fourth minute, when Allen Williams fumbled and the Tigers recovered on the Maryland 45. Six plays later, freshman fullback Raymond Priester ran in from 9 yards for the only points Clemson would need.

An interception of a Milanovich pass led to a 44-yard field goal by Welch in the second quarter. After Ford's interception in the third quarter, Clemson drove 45 yards and got a 29-yarder from Welch. The 59th and 60th field goals of his career tied the ACC record.

Maryland has been out-muscled in recent years, but yesterday it couldn't match Clemson's quickness, particularly with fleet wide receiver Jermaine Lewis out with a dislocated shoulder.

Wyatt, a sophomore who had one collegiate carry before yesterday, finished with 134 yards on 24 rushes. Solomon carried 17 times and only once was tackled behind the line, as Clemson, despite being under-sized at the skill positions, returned to the smash-mouth style that endeared the fans to Ford in the 1980s, and before that, to Frank Howard.

Field position aided Clemson -- Maryland's best start was at its 34 -- but the Tigers' defense had plenty to do with the Terps' troubles.

Williams, who was limited to 21 yards on nine carries, said Clemson surprised Maryland by putting as many as seven defenders -- often three down linemen and four linebackers -- near the line of scrimmage. Foley said the Tigers mixed their coverages well. Milanovich said Clemson's defensive backs were as good as Florida State's.

Offensive tackle Steve Ingram had another opinion.

L "Maybe," he said, "Clemson's just got our number down here."

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