Injury-prone Terps face plenty of adversity at Clemson

Maryland will be without Brown, Diggs, Hartsfield against Tigers

November 09, 2012|By Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun

Despite a three-game losing streak and a seemingly never-ending string of depth-sapping injuries — the latest including the team's top offensive and defensive playmakers — Maryland enters the toughest stretch of its 2012 schedule with something it lacked a year ago: cohesion.

Maryland (4-5, 2-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) was likely not going to beat No. 10 Clemson (8-1, 5-1) in Death Valley Saturday with either freshman wide receiver Stefon Diggs or senior linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield healthy and on the field at Memorial Stadium.

Diggs, who leads the Terps in receiving and scoring, was ruled out Thursday night with an ankle injury. Hartsfield, the team's leading tackler, sustained a season-ending ACL injury in last week's 33-13 home loss to Georgia Tech.

That the Terps might not have enough healthy bodies to keep the score respectable — something they couldn't do with reserve freshman linebacker Shawn Petty making his first start, at quarterback no less, against the Yellow Jackets — doesn't seem to faze them.

"It's all in terms of how you approach adversity," Maryland coach Randy Edsall said during the ACC teleconference this week. "And we have the mindset here that we can only control what we can control. When somebody goes down, everybody has to rally that much more around each other and everybody has to do a little bit more themselves and go out and work a little bit harder and encourage the other guys.

"That's really what you have to do. You have to stay close and you have to stay together. I think that's probably been the truest measure for this group. You can see that they are a team. They are not individuals. They believe in themselves and they believe in each other. They want each other to do well, and it's like it's a test."

This is a different kind of test that the Terps faced in Edsall's first season, which finished with eight straight defeats after a 2-2 start. There were injuries to key players, but much of the turmoil was the result of an unhappy group unable to adjust to the new coach's rules and the rigidity used in enforcing them.

"Everybody's all in, everybody's working hard in practice, nobody's going in their own direction, we're pulling from the same rope and all that," senior defensive tackle Joe Vellano said Wednesday. "Coach Edsall is in a tough situation, with all the injuries, but the only way to get out of it is to stay together. We have three big league games coming up for the younger guys to get experience."

After Clemson, Maryland finishes the season with a home game a week from Saturday against Florida State and a road game Nov. 24 against North Carolina.

But the Terps are not looking at a visit to Death Valley as simply the beginning of a death knell on a season that once held a better-than-average chance of Maryland becoming bowl-eligible and now will be likely remembered for playing a linebacker at quarterback.

Vellano has the memory of Maryland beating Clemson his freshman year when the Terps won only two games, of losing a close game at Clemson as a sophomore as well as what happened last year at Byrd Stadium.

Maryland built an 18-point lead in the third quarter and was still ahead by three points with 7 ½ minutes left before running out of steam in a wild 56-45 loss.

"It definitely gives you confidence. They were a big team coming in here last year, and we stuck it to them and played them pretty tough into the fourth quarter and had a chance to win," said Vellano, himself listed as questionable with an ankle injury. "That's kind of the thing we're going with this week. Play tough on 'D,' see if we can give the offense short fields and let the atmosphere motivate us."

Redshirt sophomore cornerback Jeremiah Johnson doesn't have the same memories as Vellano and other more experienced teammates, but looks at the task of beating the Tigers on Frank Howard Field "as motivation."

"You're going to play a top 10 team and from a defensive standpoint, it's an opportunity to show what we have done well this season," Johnson said. "You have the mentality that you can still pull out the win."

don.markus@baltsun.com

Maryland (4-5, 2-3 in the ACC) @ Clemson (8-1, 5-1)

Site: Memorial Stadium, Clemson, S.C.

Time: 3:30 p.m.

TV: ESPNU Radio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM

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