Terps let Clemson off hook in 28-24 loss

Late rally by No. 25 Tigers tops Maryland in ACC opener

College Football

September 11, 2005|By Heather A. Dinich | Heather A. Dinich,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - On Friday night, Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen told his Terps they had an opportunity.

Yesterday, he said they blew it.

A 10-point lead disintegrated late in the fourth quarter, when No. 25 Clemson rattled off two big touchdown plays for a 28-24 victory before 50,637 at Byrd Stadium.

Maryland was hampered by eight penalties for a loss of 98 yards - penalties Friedgen said accounted for 14 of Clemson's points - and the loss overshadowed a much-improved passing game led by quarterback Sam Hollenbach and 6-foot-3, 253-pound tight end Vernon Davis.

It was Maryland's first test against an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent, as well as another Atlantic Division team. The Terps dropped to 1-1 overall and 0-1 in the ACC.

"They ignored an opportunity that they had sitting, waiting to happen," Friedgen said, shaking his head. "I told them last night that they could win against a ranked team. They didn't get it done."

And senior linebacker D'Qwell Jackson was kicking himself over it.

On Clemson's first possession of the second half - a drive that resulted from Hollenbach's only interception of the game - Jackson and cornerback Gerrick McPhearson each were penalized for personal fouls on the same play.

Friedgen said McPhearson was "mouthing off," and Jackson pushed a Clemson player in the head.

"I just lost my composure real quick and I got called for it," Jackson said. "I pushed his head down to remind him not to do it again."

The concurrent penalties gave Clemson a first down on the Terps' 12-yard line. Two plays later, Clemson scored on a 6-yard pass play to take a 14-10 lead.

McPhearson was penalized another 15 yards in the fourth quarter for unnecessary roughness. The drive ended with a 51-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Charlie Whitehurst to receiver Curtis Baham. The score cut Maryland's lead to 24-21 with 7:35 remaining.

"We pulled a little trickery out on that deep touchdown pass to Baham," said Whitehurst, who completed 18 of 22 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns. "Other than that, we stuck with the game plan and tried to wear them down. By the fourth quarter, their defense was tired. We had run the ball a lot, even though it was not very successfully, but we had a big one there at the end."

A real big one.

On third-and-seven from Maryland's 38-yard line, Clemson running back Reggie Merriweather took off, nearly untouched, for the winning touchdown.

"I know our defense has more to it than what they showed today; I know they do," Friedgen said. "They'll be back."

Clemson had 72 rushing yards in the fourth quarter alone and finished with 114 - despite losing 36 yards after a high snap in the second quarter.

The Tigers were in punt formation when long snapper Nic Riddle sent the ball flying a few feet over Cole Chason's head. Chason ran the ball down but was tackled at his 2-yard line. The mistake led to Maryland's first touchdown.

Maryland extended its lead in the third quarter when it scored on back-to-back drives. Hollenbach completed a 29-yard touchdown pass to Davis that put the Terps ahead 17-14.

On the ensuing drive, a 25-yard pass to tight end Dan Gronkowski on fourth-and-two landed the Terps on Clemson's 6-yard line. Two plays later, Hollenbach found tight end Joey Haynos in the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown pass and a 24-14 lead.

"Our offense did pick it up; we just couldn't put it together," nose tackle Conrad Bolston said.

Maryland finished with 344 yards of total offense - 288 from its passing game. Hollenbach completed 18 of 28 passes, including two for touchdowns, and was intercepted once.

Davis, who at times seemed to be dragging a huddle of Clemson defenders, led all receivers with 140 yards and one touchdown on six receptions. Danny Melendez followed with 74 yards on five passes, both career highs.

Maryland's problem with penalties began on the opening drive. Whitehurst fumbled after a bad snap and lost 4 yards, but the Terps were penalized 15 yards for senior linebacker William Kershaw's unsportsmanlike conduct.

Clemson's drive, which at 9:47 turned out to be the longest in school history, continued. Eleven plays later, the Tigers were on Maryland's 1-yard line. The Terps' defense managed to hold Merriweather in place for two plays before he scored on fourth down to give Clemson a 7-0 lead.

"I haven't lost any faith at all in this defense," said Hollenbach, who was sacked three times for a loss of 18 yards. " ... Offensively, we missed some things that if we had them, we would've won the game. There's nothing wrong with our defense."

It didn't help Maryland that it was held to 56 rushing yards.

"I'm very disappointed in how we ran the ball," Friedgen said. "If we could have run the ball, we could have won the game."

Next for Maryland

Matchup: West Virginia (2-0) at Maryland (1-1)

When: Saturday, noon

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/1300 AM

Yesterday: West Virginia beat Wofford, 35-7

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