University of Maryland Parking Lot 11B was a beautiful place to be Saturday morning at 11AM. The crisp fall morning had given way to an Indian summer day. The smell of smoke from the jalapeno brats that were smoking on our grill filled my nostrils. My chest was wet from the beer I had just shotgunned, providing a cooling reprieve from the heat that was rising from the pavement.
I looked around and listened. Despite the seemingly idyllic conditions for an early Fall football game, I didn’t like what I was seeing and hearing. Bodies cloaked in Clemson orange seemed to surround our tailgate. Southern accents and songs about how sexy pick-up trucks are filled my ears. My senses were stung, and my mind was clouded with dark thoughts.
Where are the Maryland faithful? How could people stay home on a day like this? Why have so many given up on the Terps so early in the season?
Confused, disoriented, bewildered, I continued to drink cans of Bud to try and numb these bad thoughts. Maryland was a 13-point homedog coming into this Saturday’s game against Clemson, but I couldn’t figure out why. Clemson is not particularly good. Neither is Maryland, but the Terps were at home, darn it! The whole scene seemed a little insulting.
My friends and I hiked up to our bench in the fifth-to-last row in Byrd Stadium. By the time we took our seats, Clemson had kicked a field goal had taken a 3-0 lead. Within minutes the Tigers added a touchdown and were up 10-0. Maryland struggled to get through the first quarter, repeatedly going three and out. This was not a good start.
The offense seemed to get it going in the beginning of the second quarter. Nick Ferrara’s 43 yd FG early in the quarter kept the game from getting out of hand. The Tigers countered with a field goal minutes later to make it 13-3.
Then, as he’s done so many times over the last few years, Chris Turner emerged from his fog and turned it on. Turner led the Terps on a 9-play, 76 yd drive culminating in a 29 yd Torrey Smith TD in the mid-second quarter to make it 13-10. That got the team and the crowd going. Turner then led a 9-play, 81 yd TD drive by repeatedly getting out of the pocket and running for first downs. It seemed that Turner was single-handedly willing his team to victory at that point. Jamari McCullough had a huge interception at the goal line to keep Clemson from scoring again at the end of the half. The Terps took a 17-13 lead into halftime in what had seemed like an improbably comeback just minutes earlier.
Then, things got weird.
The second half was a game of football hot potato. Both offenses completely stalled and were forced to punt repeatedly. The Terps seemed to break open the game when Tony Logan returned a punt 43 yards to the Clemson 1, and Davin Meggett punched it in a few plays later. Then, CJ Spiller took the ensuing kick-off 92 yards for a TD and a Clemson counter punch. Waves of orange and red were rocking accross the stadium. Everyone was looking around like, “Oh, it’s on.” But it wasn’t.
The fourth quarter was an exercise in offensive futility for both teams. Maryland had lost big offensive lineman Bruce Campbell to injury, and Clemson was getting penetration on every down. It was as if they had one guy line-up in the Maryland backfield on each play. Clemson started three drives in a row in Maryland territory late in the fourth quarter, including one that resulted from a bonehead call by Friedgen to go for it on a 4th-and-inches on his own thirty-one yard line. The Tigers failed to move the ball time and time again, and ended up missing two long field goals that would have tied the game. Maryland fans watched with raised blood pressure and shortness of breath as the Terps froze the Tigers on each fourth quarter drive. In the end, Maryland freshman linebacker Demitrius Hartsfield put the kibosh on Clemson’s comeback attempt by forcing and recovering a fumble on their final drive to put an end to things. To add to the drama, the officials reviewed the play as Maryland fans looked on, hoping the madness would end. It did, and the Terps got the win.
Big ups to:
- Chris Turner for leading the comeback
- Torrey Smith for looking like a track athlete while racking-up YAC on his TD catch and adding 174 all-purpose yards to his big year
- Demitrius Hartsfield for 10 tackles, 8 of which were solo, and a huge game ending sack-forced fumble and recovery
- Cameron Chism for mutliple open field touchdown saving tackles against CJ Spiller
- Nick “The Kick II” Ferrara for converting a 43 yd field goal, filling in on punting dutuies and averaging an outstanding 43 yds per punt, and handling the kick-offs
Maryland is now 1-0 in ACC play. This is just the beginning of a four game stretch that presents some winnable games for the Terps.
After the game we savored victory in the parking lot, staying an hour late to let the Clemson fans get out while we toasted the win with some cold brews. It was a fun game to watch and a great time for Maryland fans. I hope more of you show up to the next one.