Big days by Watkins and Ellington highlight Clemson's come-from-behind win

by - Senior Writer -
Watkins had a Clemson record 345 all-purpose yards.
Watkins had a Clemson record 345 all-purpose yards.

COLLEGE PARK, MD – Sammy WatkinsSammy Watkins
Fr. Wide Receiver
#7 6-1, 200
Fort Myers, FL

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, Andre EllingtonAndre Ellington
RS Jr. Running Back
#23 5-10, 190
Moncks Corner, SC

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and a punishing offensive line won the game, but Bashaud BreelandBashaud Breeland
RS Fr. Defensive Back
#17 6-0, 185
Allendale, SC

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may have saved the Tigers’ season.

Clemson trailed 35-17 early in the third quarter against Maryland and the Terrapins were threating to turn the game into a rout when Breeland, a redshirt freshman defensive back, stepped in front of a C.J. Brown pass and returned the interception 29 yards to the Maryland 15-yard line.

Clemson scored three plays later on a 13-yard pass from Tajh BoydTajh Boyd
RS So. Quarterback
#10 6-1, 225
Hampton, VA

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to Watkins, giving the Tigers the momentum they needed en route to a 39-point second half explosion, giving No. 8 Clemson (7-0 overall, 4-0 ACC) a hard-fought, come-from-behind 56-45 victory over Maryland (2-4, 1-2) at Byrd Stadium.

“I could not be more proud of this football team,” Clemson head coach Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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said. “We were 18 points down, but there was no panic on the sidelines. The entire team stayed together. The staff nor the players panicked.”

Watkins had 345 all-purpose yards – including two sparkling kickoff returns - eclipsing the 312 yards set by C.J. SpillerC.J. Spiller
Pro Running Back
#28 5-11, 195
Lake Butler, FL

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against FSU, and is the fourth-highest total in ACC history. Ellington had a career-high 212 rushing yards, and the 18-point deficit the Tigers overcame is the second-most in school history behind the 28-point deficit the Tigers overcame against Virginia in 1992, a 29-28 Clemson win.

However, it was Breeland’s interception that was the turning point.

“That was a game-changer right there,” Swinney said after the game. “We needed a spark, and that was the spark. We were down 18 points and they had the ball. One more score and it would have been very difficult [to win]. That play turned the momentum.”

Breeland said the defense knew they needed to make a stop after a particularly poor first half and beginning to the second half.

“We knew what we had to do, and I was just out there playing my position,” Breeland said. “I had seen that play a lot in practice, and I was watching the quarterback and the receiver’s hips. I knew when to break on the ball, and got a good jump. It was a big play, but I didn’t realize how big it was at the time.”

Maryland head coach Randy Edsall named Brown as his starter shortly before kickoff, and Brown torched the Clemson defense for 162 yards on 22 carries, and he completed 17-of- 35 passes for 177 yards.

The teams played a wacky first half, and the Tigers made too many mistakes to count, but two glaring ones stood out. Watkins didn’t field a punt cleanly early in the first quarter, and Maryland recovered and scored their first touchdown shortly thereafter.

On Clemson’s next drive, Boyd threw an interception that was returned 46 yards by Cameren Chism for a 14-3 Maryland lead, and the Terps led 28-17 at the half.

The Terrapins took their second 18-point lead early in the third quarter when Brown capped a 78-yard touchdown drive with a 22-yard pass to tight end Matt Furstenburg.

Following Breeland’s interception, Clemson scored on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Boyd to Watkins to make it 35-24.

The teams traded field goals to make it 38-27, and then Boyd connected with Watkins for 51 yards, ran for four yards and threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Watkins to make it 38-33, and the 2-point conversion got Clemson to 38-35 entering the fourth quarter.

The Tigers went back on top on a 13-yard pass from Boyd to Jaron BrownJaron Brown
RS Jr. Wide Receiver
#18 6-2, 200
Cheraw, SC

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, but Maryland answered with a 32-yard touchdown reception by Furstenburg that made it 45-42 Maryland.

Watkins then took off on his decisive 89-yard kickoff return and Ellington clinched it with a 44-yard touchdown run with 3:55 to go.

Watkins said his return came at a perfect time.

“That was big, because all week they have been stressing special teams and how we might need it,” Watkins said. “We haven’t been doing really well on kickoff returns. We have just really been practicing this week on it. I told them boys, ‘Just block one time and give me a crease.’ And that’s what they did.”

Swinney said he told Watkins – following the first quarter miscue by the freshman – that Watkins owed him one.

“Sammy Watkins, what can I say about him tonight,” Swinney said. “I told him after the fumbled punt in the first quarter that he owed me one. He certainly responded. He did show that he was human tonight, but to break C.J. Spiller’s all-purpose record is just incredible.”

Ellington credited his offensive line with a superlative effort.

“Up front, those guys did a great job,” Ellington said. “They took a lot of ownership during the week. We got after it this week. Coach Swinney said he expected us to have a great rushing game and we took it and went with it and tried to make the best of it.”

The Tigers return to action next week in Death Valley for a noon kickoff against North Carolina.

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