In division test, Terps still have learning to do

`The stakes have gone up' against Clemson today, but UM unsure of identity

September 10, 2005|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - After breaking down game film of his team in its narrow win against Navy last weekend, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said he still wasn't quite sure where the Terps stand.

That should change today, after Maryland's game against No. 25 Clemson (1-0) in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener at noon at Byrd Stadium.

The Tigers are bigger, faster and stronger than Navy, and even more significant, an Atlantic Division opponent. Coaches and players agreed today's game has added importance because of the potential postseason implications.

"The stakes have gone up," said Clemson coach Tommy Bowden, who discussed it in Monday's team meeting "right off the bat."

"Now it's for keeps," he said.

Under the new format, division winners will play in the inaugural ACC championship game Dec. 3 in Jacksonville, Fla. Although Maryland (1-0) was picked to finish fifth of six teams in the division, there is still an empty glass case in the Gossett Football Team House with a little card that reads: Reserved for the next ACC Championship trophy.

"It's real important," Maryland defensive end Jermaine Lemons said of a win today. "One of our goals this year is making it to Jacksonville. We have to win our division in order to get there.

"We definitely have to step it up from last week because they are a better team [than Navy]. They have a lot more weapons."

Maryland enters the game confident after a come-from-behind, 23-20 win over the Midshipmen, and Clemson moved into the national rankings after its 25-24 win against then-No. 17 Texas A&M.

"I would think their confidence level shot up," Bowden said. "Had we played a lesser opponent and won handily, some young guys might think they're a little better than they are. The fact those guys went out there and performed well will keep them level-headed and give them some confidence early."

The Terps have won three of the past four games against Clemson, the only loss coming last year. Friedgen hasn't forgotten the controversial third-down pass interference call on the game's final drive that led to the Tigers' game-winning touchdown.

"It motivates me," he said. "But it's not something I dwell on."

All of Clemson's points on offense last Saturday came from field goals, but Maryland spent the week preparing for a balanced attack. The Tigers hired a new offensive coordinator in Rob Spence, who was at Maryland from 1992 to 1996 as an assistant to Mark Duffner.

Clemson gained 183 yards rushing last weekend, an improvement from last year's 107.5 average, which was next to last in the ACC. The Tigers used four different running backs against the Aggies, each with at least seven carries.

"They're extremely fast - on par with Florida State, Virginia Tech and N.C. State," Friedgen said. "But we run pretty good, too. I don't remember [them having] the number of athletes they have now. Either they grew up or they found them somewhere."

Clemson was without star quarterback Charlie Whitehurst for the final drive after he was knocked in the helmet, but freshman tailback James Davis carried the ball on eight straight plays to move the Tigers into position for the game-winning kick.

Davis ran for 101 yards on 19 carries and Whitehurst finished 14-for-19 for 185 yards. He is expected to play today.

Maryland will probably line up without wide receiver Derrick Fenner, who suffered a concussion against Navy and didn't practice all week. Drew Weatherly, who caught the game-winning touchdown last Saturday, will start in his place.

"He's a big, physical receiver," Maryland quarterback Sam Hollenbach said of Weatherly. "He's a good target for a quarterback by sheer size. The more experience he gets, the better he gets. It's such a mental game at receiver. Drew is really progressing in that area. I have no problem throwing the ball at any time in the game. I have that confidence in him."

Win or lose, today's game should give Friedgen and his staff a better indication of what direction the team is headed.

"I know we're very young," he said. "The other thing is we've got a lot of injuries.

"Right now we're 1-0, even with all the adversity we've faced."

Maryland today

Matchup: No. 25 Clemson (1-0) at Maryland (1-0)

Time: Noon

TV/Radio: ESPN/1300 AM

Line: Maryland by 1 1/2

Today's game

No. 25 Clemson (1-0) at Maryland (1-0)

Time: Noon

TV/Radio: ESPN/1300 AM

Line: Maryland by 1 1/2

Series: Clemson leads 28-23-1

Last meeting: Clemson beat Maryland, 10-7, last year at Clemson

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