Tiger offense smashes way to win over Maryland

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen said a couple of years ago that the way to beat Clemson was simple– just hit ‘em in the mouth.

Friedgen said the Tigers were soft, and that lesser-talented teams could beat the Tigers by being more physical; his gameplan seemed to work as Friedgen ran up a 6-3 record against Clemson, many of those with less talent on the field than the Tigers.

But Saturday was payback for the Tigers, according to right tackle Landon Walker.

“We smashed them,” Walker said following the Tigers’ 31-7 win over the Terrapins. “I will say that. We smashed them. They are a good football team, but we got them back for the last two years and what has been happening in this series. I feel like we played smash mouth today, and we made the plays we had to get. We outplayed them up front in order to do that.”

The play that perhaps best describes the Tigers’ dominance up front happened late in the first half, with Clemson leading 10-7 but facing a fourth-and-goal at the Maryland one-yard line. The Tigers elected to go for it – with Walker and his offensive line mates screaming for just that –and running back Jamie Harper followed fullback Chad Diehl and Walker into the end zone for a touchdown.

“I feel like that is a case of just accomplishing what you set out to do,” Walker said. “Whether it takes you four downs or not, you just have to set your mind that you are going to score there. I think the play was actually called left at first, but Maryland called a timeout and we switched it to the right. Either way – it would have been a touchdown.”

The Tiger offense missed out on a fourth-and-one against Miami two weeks ago, but Harper said it was the fourth down he missed out on back in September that ran through his mind before the play.

“Mine was Auburn, where I missed a fourth down,” Harper said. “I was just determined that I was going to get in. We ran the same little play at Auburn – a power play - and I could smell the end zone. It was just extra determination. We just said that our guys were better than their guys.”

*Quarterback Kyle Parker had a rough day in the passing department – hitting 7-of-20 passes for 106 yards – but rushed for a career-high 41 yards. Parker said he will take the ugly numbers if it means a win.

“I’d rather win ugly than lose pretty,” Parker said. “We’ve had some pretty losses. I’ll trade them all for this one.”

Offensive coordinator Billy Napier said that running Parker was an in-game adjustment to try and counteract the way Maryland was blitzing.

"I think those guys on defense, they're about as multiple in their blitz packages as we've seen,” Napier said. “We felt like we had a way to control it. We didn't turn it over. We didn't get sacked. We struggled at times but when we did have opportunities to make plays, we did that. We had to use the quarterback today to counteract their blitz control. Kyle did a good job managing that. It was a good team effort.

“We didn't turn it over and give up a short field for the defense. We continued to try to run it up in there to keep the game under control. At times we were effective throwing the ball. We made some plays out there, but obviously there are some things we need to improve."

Napier was told that Parker looked out of synch with his receivers at times, and Napier said it’s just another case of too much shuffle in the receiving corps.

"Today he took another step forward in terms of being healthier,” Napier said of Parker. “In warm-ups, it was the best he's felt physically since he's had the injury. Each week he's made it out healthy. I did ask him that. As we move forward one of the things that'll be important is the continuity in the receiver lineup. We had a shuffle in the entire lineup because of Nuke's injury. There were several plays out there that we should have made today."

*Freshman wide receiver DeAndre “Nuke” Hopkins, who was injured during practice on Wednesday, didn’t even try to play, and Napier said he had a pretty good idea on Friday that Hopkins was a no-go.

"I think we knew yesterday, just where he was at,” Napier said. “He did look better and wanted to play but I don't think it was in his best interest to play. I think he'll be ready next week. I fully expect that. He's definitely someone we think can be a difference maker."

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