Clemson Football: 10 Things We Learned from the Tigers' Victory Over Maryland
The Clemson Tigers made another statement in Week 11, romping to a 45-10 victory over the ACC rival Maryland Terrapins.
In continuing its six-game roll, Clemson keeps its hopes of an ACC Atlantic title alive and puts itself in better position for a BCS berth.
Clemson improves to 9-1 overall and 6-1 in the conference behind 261 yards and three TDs from Tajh Boyd and a Corey Crawford fumble return for a TD.
This one was a laugher by halftime, with Clemson entering the locker room up 35-7.
Maryland's playoff hopes are flat-lining—it needs to win out in order to be playoff eligible—and the rash of injuries has quashed what was once a promising start to the season.
Let's take a look at 10 things we learned from this ACC rumble in Death Valley.
Clemson's Passing Game Dominates All over the Field
Clemson moved the ball at will against the Terps—if not for three turnovers, they could have put up even more points.
But perhaps more importantly than the total yardage (436) was the extent to which the Tigers offense was truly dynamic.
They came out looking for quick strikes on screens to slow Maryland's D. Clemson decided to try to get its playmakers in space early, with particular focus on Sammy Watkins.
It paid off—Watkins' playmaking ability was evident in the first half, turning horizontal plays into big gainers. He totaled four catches for 60 yards before leaving in the second quarter with a leg injury.
Then, Clemson made Maryland pay with multiple shots deep, including a 28-yard TD to DeAndre Hopkins and a 48-yard bomb to Martavis Bryant.
Clemson's ability to beat a defense in so many different ways makes it an almost impossible offense to stop, and that was evident against one of the ACC's top defenses Saturday.
Tajh Boyd Is a Very Real Heisman Contender
Tajh Boyd had himself another great game against the ACC's second-ranked defense.
Boyd threw for three touchdowns with an efficient 68 percent completion rate. Most importantly, he reined in his turnover problem, avoiding any interceptions against the Terps.
Though he did fumble on the Maryland 2-yard line on a QB scramble, Boyd looked confident in the pocket, stepping up and making accurate throws. Several times, he threaded tight needles to make completions, including this impressive completion to Brandon Ford for a TD.
Boyd looked like a comfortable passer rather than a QB prone to scramble first.
He has stepped up his game as one of the top QBs in the nation, and he's a big reason why Clemson's offense is so prolific.
Brandon Ross Is a Baller
The lone bright spot for Maryland? RB Brandon Ross.
The Terps were missing most of their top playmakers, including Stefon Diggs and Wes Brown, not to mention their four scholarship QBs.
With Maryland linebacker Shawn Petty playing QB, Clemson had every reason to gear up for the run and force the Terps to pass. But Ross found holes anyway, running hard and dragging defenders after initial contact.
Ross finished with 100 yards on 16 carries, good for a 6.3 YPC average.
The highlight was a 44-yard romp on which Ross exhibited good vision to bounce the run to the outside, and then displayed breakaway speed on the second level down the right sideline.
Corey Crawford Has a Motor
Corey Crawford bit on the play fake.
The score was 7-0 in the first quarter, and the Terps had the ball in their own territory. Petty faked an end-around handoff, then took off toward the left sideline to try to find space.
Crawford took a few steps toward the B-gap, looking to engage a blocker and try to clog the lane on the end-around. But then he realized that Petty still had the ball, and flipped his hips to pursue him.
Crawford didn't literally force the ensuing fumble; that was an unforced error by Petty, who revealed some jitters in a pressure situation. But his hot pursuit of Petty forced the QB to make a decision he wasn't prepared for.
Crawford picked up the loose ball and ran it 16 yards for a score that put the Tigers up by multiple TDs for good. The game really wasn't close after that.
Clemson Has a Ridiculous Number of Offensive Weapons
You know how every game preview involves one team trying to shut down the other team's most potent offensive weapon?
That's not nearly enough to slow the Tigers.
Clemson opened the game with a heavy dose of Sammy Watkins. Then Boyd hit Adam Humphries in the end zone for a TD. Then they went deep to DeAndre Hopkins. Then Brandon Ford joined in on the fun.
Overall, nine receivers combined for 23 receptions, 301 yards and four TDs.
Too much passing for you? Don't worry, there was a healthy dose of Andre Ellington (13 rushes, 55 yards and a touchdown) and Roderick McDowell (11 rushes, 51 yards).
Clemson's offense is like a ninja in a dark room—it can hurt you at any moment from any angle.
Sammy Watkins Is Hurt, but Not Seriously
When Clemson playmaker Sammy Watkins left the game in the second quarter, it was cause for concern for Tigers fans.
Watkins is one of the team's top playmakers, and had carved up Maryland through that point in the game. It was reported that Watkins left with a lower leg injury, and wouldn't return to the game.
A leg injury at a fast-twitch position like WR (especially for a guy who thrives making quick cuts in space) is always a dangerous proposition.
Thankfully, the injury wasn't deemed serious, and it looks like Watkins will return soon.
Sammy Watkins (ankle bruise) said he will 'most definitely' play vs NC State
— Travis Sawchik (@travis_sawchik) November 11, 2012
Tigers fans can exhale with the news that one of their top playmakers won't miss time. It's possible that Clemson kept him out as a precaution, given that the game was already out of hand by the end of the first quarter.
Both Teams Have Turnover Issues
There were just four penalties in the game, but it was far from a clean match between the two teams.
Clemson and Maryland combined for a Michael Vick-esque six lost fumbles in this one. Both quarterbacks failed to protect the ball in key spots and paid for it.
Petty had an unforgivable fumble on his own 16-yard line—he didn't grip the ball and it slipped out of his grasp. Crawford recovered for the easy score, putting the game out of reach.
He also tried to fight for extra yards on one scramble, and got stood up and stripped. His effort in fighting past the marker was commendable, but a converted LB should know that defenders love to stand up runners and take swipes at the ball.
Boyd, too made mistakes—he lost a fumble at the 2-yard line on a pop by Matt Robinson. That's a situation in which a veteran QB protects the ball with both hands.
Both teams need to work on ball security in the coming weeks. While this game was decided by a large margin, fumbles could be more costly against other teams.
Martavis Bryant Is a Playmaker
There's a lot of talk about the Clemson duo of Hopkins and Watkins, and it's well-deserved—they're two of the top playmakers in the ACC.
But Martavis Bryant showed he has some skills of his own in Saturday's win.
Bryant finished with two catches and 59 yards, including a 48-yard bomb that set up a Tigers field goal. He also drew a pass interference on another deep ball.
He's a perfect stretch-the-field player—Bryant is 6'4" with track-star speed and a nose for the ball. When defenses lock in on Hopkins and Watkins, he has the skills to make them pay over the top.
He also demonstrated his effectiveness as a kick returner—he returned two kicks for 49 yards (including a 33-yard runback) after Watkins went down with his leg injury.
Andre Ellington Is Starting to Get Healthy
Tigers fans missed you last week, Andre.
The Clemson RB had just one carry last week, as he was nursing a hamstring injury. But the ball-carrier practiced on Wednesday and carried a bigger load against Maryland.
Ellington finished with 13 carries for 55 yards and a touchdown—not a record-setting day, but impressive given Maryland's proclivity to try to control the clock.
He wasn't explosive—his longest run was just 13 yards—and he didn't factor into the passing game, but Ellington showed that he's beginning to recover from the injury.
Look for Ellington to play a bigger role in the offense against N.C. State, especially if Watkins is battling his injury through next week.
Clemson Fans Are Raucous, Even in a Blowout
I love the White Stripes—in fact, I'm a big fan of anything Jack White does.
But I've never heard the bass-line to "Seven Nation Army" chanted so many times—not even in a soccer match.
Give credit to the Tigers fans: They showed up for an early afternoon game, ready to back their team against an ACC rival. They know that every game from here on out is crucial if they hope to secure a BCS berth or, by some miracle, an ACC Atlantic division title.
I've never been a huge believer in the 12th man (except in CenturyLink field), but it couldn't have been ideal for a linebacker-turned-QB to try to communicate his offense through a crowd like that.
Yes, Maryland's injuries are biblical, and Clemson is the better team even with all else being equal. But Clemson fans showed up Saturday and gave a boost to a team that needed a convincing, 60-minute victory.