Maryland vs Tigers: Postgame Analysis

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In the second half, James Davis and C.J. Spiller combined for less than 50 yards.
In the second half, James Davis and C.J. Spiller combined for less than 50 yards.

It may be the most obvious statement of the year: Clemson could have and should have beaten Maryland on Saturday.

The problem was they just couldn’t stop shooting themselves in the foot. Whether it was penalties, turnovers, or stupid mental mistakes, pretty much all of the harm done to the Tigers was self inflicted.

And although Maryland did a good job of fighting and never giving up, they didn’t beat the Tigers. The Tigers beat themselves.


The offense looked so good in the first half. The much maligned offensive line was creating running lanes for James Davis and C.J. Spiller and the play calling kept the Terps guessing. Fans had to feel good about what they were seeing, but they also had to wonder how they only scored 17 points. It seemed like there should’ve been more.

I’ve heard scores of people talk about how Clemson did not adjust in the second half and the play calling went in the crapper. Based on the stats along, I’d have to agree. But the stats don’t always tell the entire story.

Clemson did not go into panic mode by abandoning what had been working. Maryland adjusted by employing a four-man front rather than the three-man front they used for much of the first half in order to shore up their run defense.

Clemson continued to run the ball well but also adjusted by taking a few more shots down the field. A throw to Tyler Grisham resulted in a pass interference, two more deep shots resulted in a sack and Cullen Harper having his arm hit as he released the ball, and he was forced to throw another one away. A fifth resulted in a 17-yard gain on third-and-eight.

Clemson attempted 14 runs and 16 passes in the second half. Those numbers are somewhat skewed by the fact Clemson forced themselves into too many third-and-long situations. They had five second half drives and faced third-and-seven or longer seven times. All but one of those was a result of a penalty, sack, or bad snap.

C.J. Spiller’s beautiful touchdown run on third-and-three was negated after a holding penalty, a call I’m still not sure about. A third-and-three became a third-and-eight after an illegal participation call. A first down pickup on third-and-three became a third-and-eight after an illegal formation call. And a final third-and-three became a third-and-18 after the personal foul.

Say what you want about adjustments and play calling. Unless a play scores, you can always find fault in the call, and even when they score you can still pick a lot of them apart. The fault rests solely on execution. Had the Tigers executed better, you would have seen more runs and more points on the board.

As for the line, I was impressed with how they played considering three starters were out and a guy who was a student coach just a few weeks ago, Bobby Hutchinson, played the entire game.

I thought Thomas Austin had a really good game blocking. He sustained blocks and was aggressive when getting to the second level. His aggressiveness essentially took out two defenders and was the key to James Davis popping his touchdown run.

However, he had a horrible game snapping. A majority of his snaps were either too low or too high, and he had very little snap on them. The timing on a number of plays was thrown off by the latter. And as already mentioned, his worst snap of the day resulted in a handoff to James Davis being a five yard loss by Cullen Harper.

The rest of the guys did a good job with their initial blocks but were not very good when going after linebackers or defensive backs at linebacker depth. They looked slow getting to those blocks and did a bad job of sustaining them. There were a number of four to eight yard runs that would’ve been longer had they just held those blocks.

The reverse to Spiller that resulted in a seven yard loss was a result of Cory Lambert getting lazy and not making his block. He whiffed and when all he needed to do was just get a piece of the guy. The next play was a sack and all of a sudden it’s third-and-24.

A pat on the back does go to Michael Palmer. He had two big catches for first downs and did a good job of blocking, especially on the reverses. Most big guys get a little hesitant when blocking a defensive back or linebacker in the open field as he was asked to do a number of times. Instead, Palmer attacked them much like a good running back attacks someone in the open field. By going at them without hesitation, he never allowed them to make a move to avoid the block.

The receivers had the type of day you expect from a receiving corps. They made some nice catches and moves and did a pretty good job of blocking. However, they still missed some blocks and ran a few lazy routes.

You hate to pile on a guy that has done as much as Aaron Kelly, but he needs to pick it up. He lazily reacted to the batted lateral that resulted in a fumble, his routes haven’t been the best in the world, and he could do a much better job of blocking. There’s really no excuse for his reaction on the lateral. That’s something he learned a long time ago.

By no means did Cullen Harper light it up, but he also didn’t have an awful day. His lone interception was one of those that’s “just as good as a punt.” It was third down late in the half. He went for a deep ball trying to get in scoring position knowing that an interception was the same as an incompletion.

And what can you say about James Davis and C.J. Spiller that hasn’t already been said? They played their butts off the entire game. They are as unselfish as any tandem you’ll find and appear to almost take more pride in the other doing well. Davis’ block on one of Spiller’s reverses and Spiller’s effort on that final third down epitomize how hard those two play.


I haven’t seen or heard much talk about the defense’s performance. I thought they played pretty well.

Maryland was given the ball at the Clemson 30-yard line and 19-yard line in the first half and all they could muster was two field goals. Clemson forced the Terps to punt seven times Saturday and all but one of those drives – Maryland’s six play drive to start the game – was four plays or less.

Their first touchdown came on the heels of a 76-yard reverse. You hate to see big plays, but give Maryland some credit. It was a very good call executed to near perfection.

They went right after freshman Da’Quan Bowers. Clemson had been pursuing well all day, and he allowed the play to hit because he over pursued. Freshmen are going to make those mistakes. You have to take the good with the bad.

I thought the front had an exceptional game. Maryland couldn’t get anything going on the ground. Da’Rel Scott came into the game with 407 yards on 56 carries for an average of 7.3 yards per carry. He managed just 39 yards on 23 carries for an average of 1.7 yards per carry.

Brandon Thompson and Jarvis Jenkins continued to shine and Dorrell Scott had one of his best games of the year. The two youngsters do a good job of getting off blocks and both have good bursts. Scott recognized and blew up two screens and did a good job of forcing inside runs to go outside.

Ricky Sapp was all over the place and ended the day with at least three tackles for loss and one pass broken up. He also stayed at home on Maryland’s second reverse, forcing the ball carrier to make a cut back into the defense for a gain of just a couple of yards.

The brightest spot for the defense appeared to be the light finally coming on for the linebackers. Despite continuing to make some bad fits and looking a little hesitant at times, I finally saw linebackers making some good, quick fits and blowing up blocks.

All year I’ve watched the linebackers dance around blocks trying to make tackles. Saturday was the first time I saw them actually attack pulling guards and fullbacks and blowing them up in the backfield. That is a huge step for them.

Despite what many of them believe, linebackers aren’t supposed to always make tackles. Sometimes the best play they can make is to disrupt a play by taking out a pulling lineman in the backfield or a fullback in the hole.

I saw Scotty Cooper and Kavell Connor do just that on a number of occasions. Those plays didn’t put any marks beside their names in the stat book but they’re just like a great assist by a point guard – they lead to someone else making a big play.

I also though Brandon Maye was more physical than he’s been all year. He still has a lot of improving to do but I’m beginning to see why the staff was so high on him during the preseason.

The most unheralded player on defense Saturday and so far this year is Chris Chancellor. He has been very steady against the pass and run. He’s the smallest guy on the field most of the time but plays like he’s one of the biggest.

On one play Saturday he took on a blocker at the line of scrimmage and made a tackle for loss while still engaged. If everyone on defense could play with his desire and degree of physicality, Clemson’s defense would be a brick wall.

Marcus Gilchrist made a great play on the one really deep ball Maryland attempt. Gilchrist had initially given a step to the Maryland receiver but made a solid break and clean attempt to knock the pass away.

The one mistake by the secondary that really jumped out at me was on Maryland’s touchdown pass. The receiver started inside on what appeared to be a slant routed but broke back to the outside. Byron Maxwell bought a little too hard to the inside and fell down when the receiver made his cut to the sideline. It was a good route that was made to be great by Maxwell’s error.

And last but not least, Michael Hamlin had another stellar effort as a safety/hybrid linebacker. He brings a physical presence to the middle in nickel packages while still playing like a safety when he’s lined up deep. Even with an angle, I was surprised to see him catch Darrius Heyward-Bey, one of the fastest wide receivers in the conference, on the reverse.


It was a mixed bag for the special teams.

Mark Buchholz nailed another field goal and is perfect so far this year. A couple of his kickoffs were placed well while the others were too close to the middle of the field. It’s no surprise that the ones that were out near the numbers resulted in minimal returns and the ones towards the middle of the field resulted in better field position.

Jimmy Maners had a great punt that was spotted at the four-yard line but that was his only good effort of the day. He had a 44-yarder for a touchback that netted only 24 yards and his worst punt of the day, a 34-yard line drive, gave Maryland the ball at the Clemson 45-yard line to start their game winning drive.

If Dawson Zimmerman is near 100-percent by the Wake game, I would think the punting spot will be up for grabs.

Ford’s fumbled punt was a real momentum killer. It was a ball that should have been cleanly fielded. It didn’t look like he took his eyes off it to check out the coverage. He simply missed it.

The punt return unit had a chance to atone for that error just before the half on Spiller’s big return. Unfortunately, Bryon Maxwell was flagged for a block in the back. I never have understood and never will understand why someone blocks a player in the back on a return.

It wasn’t one of those deals where the defender turned at the last minute. His back was to Maxwell a good five yards before the block. It was so obvious that you could almost argue Maxwell meant to kill the play. The bad thing is the block really had no direct effect on the outcome of the play. At the very least, you have to think Clemson would’ve gotten a field goal out of that return had it stood.

The coverage units did a good job of not giving up a big play. Maryland is usually very good on special teams and they’ve hurt Clemson with big returns in the past. I think Andre Powell deserves some credit for quietly turning Clemson’s special teams around.


It was, perhaps, the toughest defeat for Clemson fans to swallow in quite some time.

The offense should have put more points on the board but they couldn’t get out of their own way.

The defense played too well to give up 20 points but were done in by short fields and one big play.

Maryland’s first touchdown was on an 80 yard drive aided by the 76 yard reverse and their second was on a 45 yard drive. Other than those two, their longest drives of the day were for 27 and 24 yards, both of which resulted in punts. They had five drives that went for eight yards or less, two of which saw them lose yards.

I have received a number of emails and heard a lot of chatter about the officiating, so I will address it.

Clemson did not lose the game because of officiating. The Tigers had opportunities to win the game regardless of any calls that were or were not made.

There were two no calls that should be noted.

In the second quarter, Maryland picked up a first down on third-and-eight when a ball bounced off a Maryland receiver’s back and was snagged by a teammate. It was an obvious offensive pass interference call because the Maryland receiver whose back it hit was blocking a defender down field.

The line of scrimmage on that play was the Clemson 28. The penalty would have made it third-and-23 from the Clemson 43, meaning Maryland would have had to pick up about 13 yards or so just to remain in field goal position.

The second was the obvious hold on the pass play which put Maryland at the Clemson one-yard line before their final touchdown. Although it wasn’t a given, it appeared Kevin Alexander may have made the sack had he not been held and Maryland would’ve had a second-and-18 or so from the Clemson 30. That was the best case. The worst case would have been a first-and-20 from the Clemson 32.

You can argue all you want about the final two spots on Clemson’s last drive but those were judgment calls. Those things happen. Had the other two calls that were so obvious they took any judgment out of the situation been made, those spots would likely have been moot.

Again, I hate pointing that out but I’ve received too many email and heard too many comments about them to not mention it. In no way am I saying Clemson lost because of officiating. The only blame ultimately falls on the shoulders of the Tigers and their lack of execution.

As is stands, Clemson now has a division loss and must go on the road to Wake Forest next Thursday. Despite what most fans seem to think at this point, all is not lost.

There was a lot of good things that happened Saturday. I was actually surprised by how good Clemson looked at times. If you would’ve told me beforehand they would have rushed for as many yards as they did while limiting Maryland to essentially nothing on the ground, I would have said you’d have a better chance of sweeping all the sand off the beach.

Now I’m not saying Clemson will finish 10-2 and win the ACC. I just think it’s too early and college football is too crazy right now to cash it in.

With plenty of time to rest some injuries and work on development because of only two October games and the possibility of David Smith, Chris Hairston, and Rashaad Jackson returning, I saw enough Saturday to lead me to believe a lot of good things can still happen.

I know that sentiment is not very popular right now and anyone reading this will write me off as a nutcase. So be it. I’ll stick to my guns for now. I’ve been around this game long enough to realize there’s a ton of football left to play and much crazier things have happened.

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Subject (Replies: 34) Author
spacer Maryland vs Tigers: Postgame Analysis
spacer Roy, it doesn't take almost a week to break this game
Sandy Springs Tiger
spacer I would rather wait "almost a week" and read this type of
spacer Roy, you are not nuts. You are exactly right.
spacer Same tired old song I've heard for the last 10 yrs. Roy.
spacer That's genius
spacer Thank you for a good analysis.***
spacer God help you Roy - you could have summed this
spacer I look forward to your analysis each week Roy. Thanks again***
spacer Very good! I wish you would have mentioned one thing though.
spacer Optimism is good........unless it's delusional and leads you
spacer Re: Optimism is good........unless it's delusional and leads you
spacer Re: Optimism is good........unless it's delusional and leads you
spacer Re: Optimism is good........unless it's delusional and leads you
spacer Great analysis. Spot on.***
spacer Re: Optimism is good........unless it's delusional and leads
spacer Re: Optimism is good........unless it's delusional and leads
spacer Re: Optimism is good........unless it's delusional and leads you
spacer Sunshine Pumper too but....
spacer Typical pro-Bowden T-net analysis. Why no downfield passing?
spacer Great Post
spacer Exceptionally well done!!!!!!!!***
spacer Great post and thanks for helping us call out RS Loser!
spacer Raz--here is your answer to Spence and calling plays
spacer Sadly I saw TB's comments, but I hoped he was posturing.
spacer I bet
spacer Thanks Roy for a good analysis, they are always insightful
spacer Good article..full of always.***
spacer Analyze this
spacer Re: Analyze this
spacer Re: Analyze this
spacer Yes, RS and the plays are the answer
spacer Re: Yes, RS and the plays are the answer
spacer Did you see UVA put 31 pts on UMD with a BALANCED attack?
spacer Re: Did you see UVA put 31 pts on UMD with a BALANCED attack?
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