Clemson University

Tigers hope season has not slipped away

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Kicker Richard Jackson said it was hard to read the pulse of Clemson's locker room after Saturday's 24-21 defeat at Maryland.

No one was saying a word.

Jackson said, from the outside looking in, it appears Clemson is rewriting the "same old story" from the past few years.

But he said "it's a lot different once you're inside the ropes," and senior receiver Jacoby Ford maintained he believes this year's squad has learned from its predecessors' mistakes.

"There's going to be a lot of negativity out there, but we can't buy into it," Ford said. "That's how teams splinter and fingers start being pointed. We win as a team, we lose as a team.

"This is a team we knew we had a lot more talent than a lot more teams in the conference. We have to go out there and showcase it."

Quarter horses. Maryland totaled 194 of its 284 offensive yards in the second quarter alone, posting a pair of lengthy touchdown drives to rally from a 10-point deficit and take a 17-13 halftime lead.

The Terps utilized some of the quarterback option runs TCU exploited last week, but they inflicted just as much damage picking on Clemson's man coverage.

"The two-minute drive before the half was probably the killer," defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said.

False start. The Tigers committed a season-high seven penalties - four of which were false starts, and that did not include an illegal shift penalty that was declined.

It cost them most after an out-of-bounds Maryland kickoff and subsequent quick completion put Clemson in position to mount a momentum-changing score before halftime.

But after a 13-yard completion to Xavier Dye put the Tigers at the Terps' 47 with 0:35 remaining in the half, center Mason Cloy and quarterback Kyle Parker had a miscommunication on the snap count, and the false start penalty - coupled with poor clock management - cost the Tigers 16 seconds.

Parker settled the next play for a desperation heave to the end zone that was intercepted.

"It just makes you sick knowing if we could have played a little differently, the outcome could have been different," Parker said.

Shoeless sprint. Running back C.J. Spiller's special feet were put on display as he busted through a pair of arm tackles and ran more than half of his 92-yard kickoff return touchdown in the third quarter with just one shoe on.

Yet for all the debatable play-calling and lack of offensive execution that occurred in Clemson's final three drives, Spiller was left to lament the one play that got away.

Facing second-and-8 from the Maryland 27 with under five minutes to go, Spiller looked to have two solid blocks and tons of room upon hauling in a play-action screen pass in the right flat. But he got twisted and slipped to the ground for a 4-yard loss, and the Tigers conservatively ran the ball the next play to set up the first of Jackson's long misses.

"Feet just went from up under me," Spiller said. "Man, it's a tough one."

They walk the line. Junior left tackle Chris Hairston briefly returned from injury, while Clemson made two changes on the offensive line.

Hairston, who missed one game with a sprained MCL, subbed in for the second offensive series but did not appear the rest of the contest.

For the first time this season, starting center Mason Cloy slid to guard for a series as Dalton Freeman replaced him at center. Having switched to tackle after Hairston's injury to help depth, redshirt sophomore David Smith made his debut at right tackle in the third series and saw intermittent time there in the first half.

Related stories from The State in Columbia SC