Tigers answer late wake-up call to pull away from Terps

Maryland nearly made its last ACC meeting with Clemson one to remember before succumbing 40-27 to the ninth-ranked Tigers on Saturday at Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium.

The depleted Terrapins opened a first-half lead and closed to within three points in the third quarter before Clemson (7-1 overall, 5-1 ACC) pulled away behind another strong effort from quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

Boyd’s 5-yard run with 13:04 left in the fourth quarter stretched the Clemson lead to 26-13 and tied an ACC record for touchdown responsibility with his 112th score, equaling Philip Rivers’ record set at NC State from 2000 to 2003.

Watkins set a school record with 14 catches, but Clemson couldn’t consistently get the ball in the end zone early against a stingy Maryland defense. The Terrapins (5-3, 1-3), still searching for a sixth victory and bowl eligibility lost for the second straight week and the third time in the last four games.

Watkins finished with 163 yards receiving and Boyd was 28-of-41 passing for 304 yards. Boyd also rushed 13 times for 35 yards as Clemson bounced back from last week’s disappointing 51-14 loss to Florida State.

“If you’re going to be a great program, you’ve got to win consistently on the road,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “With this win today, this is the longest road steak (seven games) for us in 35 years at Clemson. Obviously, that’s not easy to do. I’m just really proud of our guys for coming up here and care of business.”

The win marked the first time that Maryland has won seven games on the road in a row since 1978-79. The Tigers have also won 15 consecutive games against unranked teams by double digits. Only Alabama has a longer streak with 25.

Maryland sophomore Caleb Rowe, making his third career start, passed for 282 yards and two touchdowns.

The Tigers tacked on a 3-yard scoring run by Roderick McDowell with 7:57 to play, and Rowe led a frantic 68-yard march, ending with a 5-yard scoring pass to Amba Etta-Tawo with 5:58 remaining.

McDowell added a 45-yard scoring run on one of his 30 carries for a career high 161 yards.

Stubborn Maryland had closed to 16-13 in the third quarter after back-to-back Brad Craddock field goals — each after a Clemson fumble. But the Tigers mounted a 68-yard drive to cash in on Chandler Catanzaro’s fourth field goal of the day, a 24-yarder with 6:42 left, to make it 19-13.

“Obviously, we had some mistakes with turnovers,” Swinney said. “We were plus one in turnover margin. When you put the ball down twice inside your (30), and they come away with six points, our defense responded. That was big in our game last week. We got outscored 24-0 off turnovers, but tonight we got turnovers and scored.”

Maryland coach Randy Edsall looked at the flipside of the coin as his Terrapins turned the ball over twice on fumble and twice by interception.

“I thought we had good effort,” he said, “but we didn’t get the execution and capitalize on some of the opportunities we had to get over the hump and beat the No. 9 team in the country. When you get those opportunities in a game like this, we need to take more advantage than we did. But give them credit, they’re a good football team.”

Clemson led 16-7 at the half, thanks to Boyd’s 5-yard scoring pass to tight end Jordan Leggett just nine seconds before intermission. The score was set up by a 30-yard catch-and-run by Watkins, who had 10 first-half receptions for 127 yards.

Before that score, the battered and bruised Maryland defense — missing four starters — held the high-powered Tigers offense to three field goals.

Photo by CU Athletics

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