CLEMSON — A promising 4-0 start for Maryland has been awash in two dismantling defeats and a rash of injuries at key positions.
After shutting out West Virginia, 37-0, in Baltimore on Sept. 21 to move into the Associated Press rankings, the Terrapins (5-2, 1-2 ACC) lost 63-0 at Florida State and 34-10 at Wake Forest in two of their first three games to open October.
After sustaining a concussion earlier this year, Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown was yanked in favor of Caleb Rowe in the first half at Wake Forest.
Head coach Randy Edsall has listed Brown and Rowe as co-starters going into Saturday’s matchup with No. 9 Clemson at 3:30 p.m.
“Our quarterback situation is that it’ll be either Caleb or C.J. in there,” Edsall said Wednesday. “We’ll make decisions after we get through practice this week, based on the health of our quarterback.
“With C.J., the concussion isn’t the problem; there’s other issues there we have to look at. I have to watch during practice if guys can perform at the highest level and not put themselves in any more danger from a health standpoint.”
Maryland’s top two receivers, sophomore Stefon Diggs (named a preseason all-ACC receiver by multiple publications) and junior Deon Long each suffered season-ending leg injuries Saturday in Maryland’s 34-10 loss at Wake Forest.
Diggs and Long combined for 66 catches, 1,076 yards and four touchdowns in seven games. The rest of the Maryland roster has 65 receptions, 888 yards and five touchdowns.
The new Terrapins roster lists sophomores Levern Jacobs and Nigel King and freshmen Amba Etta-Tawo and Malcolm Culmer as their top receiving options. Only Jacobs has exceeded 162 receiving yards, and none have more than 14 catches this year.
However, the Terrapins do return home to Byrd Stadium, where they’re 3-0 this season.
“We’ve played better here at home,” Edsall said. “You’re always more comfortable at home, we’ve had great support here, and hopefully we can continue that. You’re in your own locker room, your own surroundings.”
Clemson has won three of the past four at Maryland, and three straight overall, heading into the teams’ final matchup before Maryland leaves to become a Big Ten Conference member.
“They’re very talented. They’re athletic up front. They present a big-time challenge for you, and they have a number of playmakers who can hurt you,” Edsall said of the ninth-ranked Tigers. “So you’ve got to do enough to not allow those guys to make enough big plays against you.”
Maybe that’s why
Against South Carolina State and Wake Forest, the Tigers scored two touchdowns off turnovers in each game. Against Georgia, North Carolina State, Syracuse and Boston College, they converted one turnover into a touchdown in each game.
In those six games, the Tigers hadn’t allowed a single point off turnovers, making for a commanding 56-0 margin in their 6-0 start.
But on Saturday night, Florida State struck first with a Kelvin Benjamin TD catch from Jameis Winston in the first 90 seconds off Clemson tight end Stanton Seckinger’s fumble, and the rout was on.
The Seminoles ended up scoring 24 points off turnovers — including Mario Edwards’ return for a touchdown off Tajh Boyd’s fumble — and the Tigers had none for the first time this year.
“Sometimes you go out there, you had a great week of practice, great prep, and next thing you know the put the ball on the ground a couple times and you start pressing,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “You can’t beat bad football teams that way, much less a great team like Florida State. They don’t make many mistakes, and you get your tail whipped.”
With Tajh Boyd as Clemson’s starting quarterback, the Tigers are 4-1 in games immediately following a loss (not counting the 2012 Orange Bowl, when Clemson had to wait nine months for the next season.)
“Last year we probably played our worst game of the year against South Carolina. It was a huge game, probably would have been in a BCS bowl had we won that game,” Swinney said. “We had a lot of our key guys didn’t play very well; we turned it over; we had a tough night, and for 30 days we had to listen to how bad we were. Well, they responded in the bowl game.”
By winning its last six games away from home (five on the road and the Chick-fil-A Bowl), Clemson’s equaled its longest such streak since 1994-95.
A win Saturday at Maryland would give the Tigers their first seven-game road or neutral winning streak in 34 years.
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