CLEMSON, S.C. - Suddenly, it was eerily quiet. Deathly quiet, you might say.
For the better part of three quarters, the orange-clad Death Valley crowd had been having a raucous party at Maryland's expense, and so had Clemson's talented "Thunder and Lightning" running backs.
But the party ended after wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey took an end-around, cut toward the middle of the field and raced 76 yards to Clemson's 4-yard line - Maryland's longest run since 2003. The previously out-of-it Terps - embarrassed on defense and mistake-prone on offense - scored two plays later to pull to 17-13 and set up a most unlikely 20-17 victory over the No. 20 Tigers in Maryland's first Atlantic Coast Conference game of the season.
"We won this one with our hearts, not with our ability or not with technique," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "More or less, we grinded it out with will. We found a way to win on the road against a good football team. That's got to be huge for your season."
Everything changed after Heyward-Bey's run. Clemson, which had 260 yards in the first half, punted the next three series after Heyward-Bey's big play. Then Maryland, led by three completions by Chris Turner to reliable senior Danny Oquendo, scored the winning touchdown on a 45-yard drive capped by a 1-yard run by Da'Rel Scott with 10:25 left in the game.
And that's when the crowd of 81,500 hit the mute button. Senior defensive lineman Dean Muhtadi said he turned to his teammates on the sideline and said: "Y'all hear that? Nothing. We just shut up 85,000 fans in their own stadium."
The Maryland players' reactions made clear how much this win meant. The Terps lost their previous road game, to Middle Tennessee State in Week 2, and had been ruminating about it ever since.
After Maryland ended yesterday's contest by running out the final five minutes, Turner - who completed two third-down passes on that drive - bounced up and down at midfield and hugged any teammate crossing his path.
"Everybody was going nuts, jumping up and down," said defensive tackle Jeremy Navarre, who had angrily addressed his teammates after a first half that ended with Maryland behind 17-6. "That was probably the worst half of football you guys have seen. We didn't want to get embarrassed in front of all these people."
Clemson, which had 17 first downs in the first half to Maryland's six, was burning Maryland with its inside-outside running game featuring James Davis and C.J. Spiller. At halftime, Maryland asked its defenders not to overrun the plays.
"We came back after halftime and played more straight-up defense," Friedgen said.
Slowly, Maryland's defense believed in itself.
The defense made its final stand by stopping Cullen Harper on a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-inches from Maryland's 40 with less than six minutes left. Sophomore linebacker Alex Wujciak was credited with the tackle - his 16th of the game.
It was only through good fortune that the Terps weren't losing by more at halftime. Maryland benefited from a Clemson fumbled punt and a fumble on a backward pass.
"We self-imploded today," said Clemson coach Tommy Bowden, whose team hadn't given up a touchdown in 10 quarters until Maryland scored one in the third quarter.
Clemson's miscues left just enough of an opening to give the Terps hope.
"We had played the worst half we had played all year," Turner said.
The quarterback credited Heyward-Bey's run - the longest Clemson has surrendered since 2000 - as the difference-maker.
It was a play that Maryland had been itching to call and had been waiting for the right opportunity.
Offensive coordinator James Franklin said he called it in the third quarter because "we weren't having a whole lot of positive plays on first down, so I just said, 'What the heck, we'd better call it.' "
Said Heyward-Bey: "Coach Friedgen came up to me and was like, 'We need you to have a big confidence-booster.' He knew I could use my legs."
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What went right
After a miserable first half, Maryland got mad. And then even. The Terps, who had surrendered big yardage, suddenly got stingy.
What went wrong
The first half was disastrous for the Terps, who looked helpless against running backs James Davis and C.J. Spiller. Maryland's own running game got stuffed.
Darrius Heyward-Bey dropped some passes, but his 76-yard end-around changed the game.
What it means
Beating Clemson in Death Valley? Priceless.
The Terps (4-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) travel to Virginia, which lost, 31-3, to Duke.