Big 'D'

CLEMSON – Even though the Clemson offense was missing in action against Maryland Saturday, there's no question that the defense came to play.

The Tigers held Maryland to 194 yards of total offense, created two turnovers and kept the game close enough for the offense to have a chance to win it at the end. And that's exactly what happened.

And best of all, the Clemson held the Terrapins to 83 rushing yards, after giving up on average 182.5 yards per game.

"The kids played great," said Tigers defensive coordinator John Lovett. "They did what we asked them to do and they stopped the run and that was huge. That's what we had to do."

Clemson's inability all season to slow down the opposition's running game has been a sore spot with Lovett and the rest of the defense all season. They felt singled out for the Tigers' woes.

However, over the last two weeks, Clemson has allowed just 63 yards rushing.

"We're just paying attention to getting it done right," Lovett said of the difference from the first five games of the season. "It's a matter of guys growing up a little bit and taking responsibility. I think the seniors are doing a good job as far as holding guys accountable to make sure we get the little things done.

"Run defense is just simply this: You've got gaps to fill, you've got guys that need to be where they are supposed to be and you send the ball a certain way and everybody knows where they go. What we're getting done is guys are understanding where to go and how to fit and how important it is to be on one side or another."

By stopping the run, it allowed the defense to go after Maryland sophomore quarterback Joel Statham.

"We tried for the most part to play tight coverage today," Lovett said. "We felt like if we could stop their running game, then what we would do is play some man and mix up some zone in there and try to make the guy make some tight throws."

Statham couldn't and he finished the day 14-of-31 passing for 111 yards and two interceptions. It was by far the best all-around performance by Clemson against a quality opponent this season.

"That's the way they used to win games around here," Tigers coach Tommy Bowden said. "I don't mind winning games 10-7. That's a tremendous boost for our defense. (Maryland) had one 17-yard drive on the blocked punt and then other than that, Maryland doesn't do anything."

The Tigers will have a chance to step up defensively three games in a row as a less than good N.C. State offense comes to Memorial Stadium. If the Clemson can produce those same results, the Tigers just might have an even record heading into the Miami game.

"We have made improvement the last two weeks," defensive tackle Cory Groover said. "I think we are becoming a better defense each and every week."

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