At the same time, Maryland players took it as a challenge to quiet the junior tailback and make him eat his words. Each Terrapins defensive lineman had Davis’ quote taped to his locker, with a picture of the opposing Clemson offensive lineman underneath the quote as motivation.
It turns out that all the motivation in the world couldn’t help as Davis lived up to his guarantee by rushing for 129 yards in leading Clemson to the 30-17 victory over Maryland Saturday at a very lifeless and dank Byrd Stadium.
“I did that to motivate my guys and get my guys ready to go,” Davis said. “It was a lot of pressure going into this game. I was sweating on the bus just thinking about it. I knew everybody would get a little thought in their head about what would happen if you don’t win.
“But I’m glad my team stuck with me and we got the win.”
For the second straight week, the Tigers (6-2, 3-2 ACC) looked like a team that belongs in the top 25 and not the one that was putrid against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.
Putting up big numbers against the likes of Central Michigan is nothing to boast about, but to do it against a fellow ACC team like Maryland (4-4, 1-3 ACC) speaks volumes on how well Clemson is playing, especially up front on the offensive line.
The move of Thomas Austin to center and Barry Humphries to guard has worked wonders the last two games. The offensive line is aggressive and opening up holes that have been reminiscent of last year.
As a team, Clemson ran for 249 yards.
“We’re just playing for respect,” Austin said. “We just keep hearing that we soft. To come out there and rush for 249 yards makes a statement. I think you can really see us jelling as a line.”
To illustrate how dominant the Clemson offense was, the Tigers had 236 yards of total offense, with Davis rushing for 84 yards and C.J. Spiller rushing for 52 more.
Spiller finished with 106 yards rushing, which makes it the fourth time that Davis and Spiller have rushed for at least 100 yards each in the same game.
“It’s probably the best one-two punch we’ve seen from those guys all year,” Austin said.
Quarterback Cullen Harper wasn’t his sharpest of the season, but he was steady nonetheless. He finished 20-of-26 passing for 179 yards and two touchdowns.
It was a 27-yard pass to Aaron Kelly that gave the Tigers the lead for good with 9:17 left in the second quarter at 10-3.
His second touchdown pass came in the fourth quarter to tight end Michael Palmer, which tied the school’s all-time record for scoring passes in a season with 21.
But even though he tied the record, all the talk was still about Davis and his guarantee.
“We just wanted to make sure we backed James,” Harper said. “But words don’t win football games. He came out here and ran the ball like he had something to prove. He ran like he had a chip on his shoulder. He showed just how good he can be.”
Not to be outdone, however, was the solid play of the defense, which had limited the Terrapins to just 149 yards of total offense through three quarters. Maryland scored a two meaningless touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but other than that, the defense was solid.
Leading the way defensively was junior safety Michael Hamlin, who was in on tons of tackles, while making big plays and recovered a fumble.
As a whole, the defense lived up to its lofty ranking of being the best in the ACC.
By winning, Clemson stays alive in the hunt for the Atlantic Division and the ACC title.
“You’ve got to win the next one,” Tigers coach Tommy Bowden said. “That’s all we’re trying to do is win the next one. We’re down to a four-game schedule.”
However, the question now is whether or not Davis is going to guarantee any more victories.
“I won’t be guaranteeing any more wins,” Davis said. “But we’ve got to come out here and fight.”