1) Touchdowns Not Field Goals - Granted Clemson beat a better team last week with field goals, but this week the game is on the road. On the road, you get down to the 2-yard line, you have to punch it in. Byrd Stadium has been a difficult place to play for Clemson since 1999. The Tigers have dropped the last two meetings in College Park, and they will have too play well on Saturday to win. This Maryland team is not capable of winning the ACC, but if Clemson is unable to convert inside the redzone, the Tigers will lose a key ACC battle.
Review: The Tigers were 2 for 2 in the redzone against Maryland. Reggie Merriweather punched it in on a fourth down from the one-yard line, and Charlie Whitehurst found a wide open Curtis Baham in the endzone. The Tigers did not even attempt on field goal on Saturday. There was a couple of personnel changes made, and it seemed to pay off for Clemson. There are still some issues as it did take the Tigers four downs to punch it inside the five-yard.
2) Stop The Big Play - Maryland’s passing game will throw it deep 5-7 times a game. Clemson’s secondary was only tested vertically a couple of times against Texas A&M, and they were not successful. One blown coverage or missed assignment could be a huge momentum swing in Maryland’s favor. Clemson’s secondary is faster and more athletic than Maryland’s wide receivers, but with the deep ball sometimes you get lucky. Stopping the running game early would give Clemson a chance to sit back and defend Sam Hollenbach.
Review: The defense did not receive a passing grade in this category. Maryland put together five plays of 29 yards or more. Coming away from the Maryland game, the pass defense is by far the biggest concern on the team. The pass rush came alive in the fourth quarter to help the secondary, but tight end Vernon Davis continously found holes in the zone coverage. The Tigers will have very little time to adjust, as the Miami passing attack will be on another level.
3) Avoid The Trap - Ah yes, the proverbial trap game. If you were able to find “a trap game” in the dictionary, it would say Clemson at Maryland 2005. This game follows a huge last second win, and it comes right before a big match-up with Miami. For all of the talk about the senior leadership over the spring and summer, this will be their first big test. The coaches can only do so much, and then it must come from within. It was great senior leadership that allowed Clemson to pound every opponent that stepped in their way the last four games of 2003. Now, Charlie Whitehurst, Tye Hill, Charles Bennett, etc. it is time for this program to take the next step. The Tigers are 2-point underdogs, and there is no reason this time should come out flat.
Review: Motivation was not a problem. The Tiger offense opened the game with a 17-play drive that ended in a Merriweather touchdown. Once again, this team fought back after being down in the fourth quarter. The Tigers took care of business to set up the big matchup with Miami. This was a huge step for the program, as this was normally a game Clemson has lost under Coach Bowden. Now, the team has good momentum returning home.
4) Pressure Hollenbach - Maryland quarterback Sam Hollenbach threw two interceptions early against Navy, and the Terrapins almost did not recover. If Clemson can pressure Hollenbach into early mistakes, the Tigers may jump out early and never look back. Maryland may try to run some option with Hollenbach, but I expect he will spend most of the day in the pocket. Maryland’s offensive line has some issues that Clemson needs to take advantage of.
Review: This is an area of mixed review. The Tigers were able to put pressure on Hollenbach, but Hollenbach held up better than expected. Hollenbach delivered big plays in the face of pressure. The Tigers were able to get to Hollenbach, when it counted. Two of the three sacks came in the fourth quarter. Charles Bennett and Gaines Adams may have had their best games in a Clemson uniform on Saturday.
5) Stay Away From Extracurricular Activity - Maryland ranks right up there with NC State and Florida State in terms of personal foul penalties. The Terps will push the issue after the play several times, and Clemson must keep its composure. More times than not, it is the player who retaliates that gets caught. Personal foul penalties were an issue against Maryland last year, and the Tigers cannot stop a drive or allow Maryland to continue a drive with a personal foul penalty.
Review: This was a huge difference in the game. Maryland kept Clemson's opening drive alive with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The Tigers second touchdown drive was aided by two personal penalties. Clemson only had one personal foul on the day. Sophomore La'Donte Harris showed good discipline walking away from Gerrick MacPhearson after being slapped. MacPhearson got the penalty, and Harris ran back to his teammates clapping. The Tigers will face similar circumstances later in the year against Florida State and NC State. The Tigers made the Terrapins pay for their lack of discipline, and they will look to do the same to future opponents.