The Terps need two more wins to be bowl eligible, but their remaining three opponents are no walk in the park. After facing Clemson, the Terps will host No. 10 Florida State (8-1, 5-1 ACC) at home and then travel to Chapel Hill, N.C. to face the North Carolina Tar Heels (6-3, 3-2 ACC).
“Well we've got a tremendous challenge in front of us this weekend, going down and playing Clemson, a top 10 team that is playing extremely well,” Maryland head coach Randy Edsall said.
The Terps fell to Clemson last season in Maryland's homecoming game, 56-45, after blowing an 18-point lead with under 12 minutes to play in the game. The Tigers hold a 32-26-2 all-time lead over the Terps.
The Terps will be led by former linebacker Shawn Petty playing quarterback. Petty had a sluggish first half against Georgia Tech last week, but picked it up in the second half, completing eight of 12 passes for 114 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
“I wished he would have protected the ball a little bit more and we did not turn it over,” Edsall said. “I think he was a bit jittery to start the game, which is expected. I think he was more concerned about whether he was getting rushed than just letting the ball go. Once he got through the first half, I thought he settled in a little bit more. With the interception that he threw, he will know next time to put a little bit more air under it instead of just trying to fit the ball in there. In terms of executing, we did not have any delay of games or any illegal procedures. He did a good job of getting us in and out of the huddle and I thought he made some good reads. He missed some, but given the situation, with only seven practices I think he did a good job. We just need to get him better for this week, because with the speed and athleticism [of Clemson] the game isn't going to get any slower.”
Maryland will be without freshman wide receiver Stefon Diggs has continued to put together a solid season, already surpassing former Maryland receiver and current Oakland Raider Darrius Heyward-Bey as the all-time freshman leader in receiving yards. Diggs has 721 yards already this season, ranking him 11th on the Maryland all-time single-season receiving leaders. Diggs is also an electrifying force on special teams, ranking sixth on Maryland's list of single-season all-purpose yards leader with 1,574 yards.
Joining him with an injury is freshman running back Wes Brown, a high school teammate from Good Counsel. Brown assumed the leading tailback role after the loss to N.C. State but was banged up in last week's game against Georgia Tech.
The Terps' defense has played solidly all season until they were dominated by Georgia Tech's triple option, allowing a season-high 401 yards of total offense. The Terps will have to take on Tajh Boyd and the rest of the Clemson offense who is second in the ACC in scoring offense with 49 touchdowns to Florida State's 50 and in total offense with 4,702 yards and 46 touchdowns on offense. Boyd leads the ACC in in total offense, rushing for 275 yards and five touchdowns, and passing for 1,933 yards and 25 touchdowns.
“Offensively they are a very talented football team,” Edsall said. “Tajh Boyd is playing extremely well, just throwing the deep ball well and making good decisions. He also pulls the ball down and runs hit. He's got good speed and he's surrounded by some tremendous wide receivers.”
Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins is another offensive playmaker for the Tigers, ranking second in the ACC with 6.8 receptions per game and fourth in the conference behind Diggs with 89.8 receptions per game. Watkins has caught two touchdowns while wideout DeAndre Hopkins has caught 13 this season for the Tigers. There have already been many comparisons made between the sophomore Watkins and Diggs.
“I think they are both very talented and explosive players,” Sammy [Watkins] is a little bit bigger and thicker than Stefon [Diggs] but both of them have the ability to make plays in the return game and as receivers. I just hope Stefon makes more plays this week than Sammy makes against us.”
The Terps will be without another key player as they lost senior linebacker and team captain Demetrius Hartsfield who tore his ACL in the loss against Georgia Tech. Hartsfield injury follows many other injuries to starters like quarterbacks C.J. Brown, Perry Hills, Devin Burns and Caleb Rowe, and wide receiver Marcus Leak. But despite the mounting injuries, the Terps have continued to stay positive and focus on their goal of making the postseason.
“All we are going to do is go out and give our best effort each and every day and do the best we can, and that's all anybody can ask of us,” Edsall said. “And that's what I've been most impressed with. They haven't batted an eye. There's nobody walking around this building feeling sorry for themselves, nobody saying 'What if,' or 'If this didn't happen.' They're just saying, 'Okay, what do we have to do today to get better? What do we have to do to win?' It's like our mantra: all in, all games, all season. Everybody has taken heed to that.”
The Terps will play the Clemson Tigers on Saturday in Memorial Stadium in Clemson, S.C. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.