Clemson’s 24-21 loss at Byrd Stadium on Saturday moves the Tigers to 2-3 overall (1-2 in conference). The Terrapins improve to 2-3 overall (1-0 in conference).
Down 24-21 with less than three minutes to play, Clemson’s defense stopped Ralph Friedgen’s gutsy fourth-down and one quarterback sneak call at the Maryland 29.
“The thing that was tough for me was I knew they were in field goal range,” he said. “So I knew even if we held them, they were going to get a shot at tying the game and going into overtime.”
With a chance for lightning to strike on the second play of the ensuing possession, C.J. Spiller slipped after catching a screen pass four yards behind the line of scrimmage.
“My feet just went from up under me. It’s a tough one. I’ve been beating myself up over it,” he said.
Clemson was forced to attempt a 47-yard field goal. Had it not been for a bit of gamesmanship by the Maryland coaches, Saturday’s result could have gone the other way.
Referees waived off Jackson’s first attempt because of a late timeout. Although he slipped, the kick split the uprights.
On the second try, he missed wide right.
“I give their coaches credit. They made me make it twice and I couldn’t do it,” he said.
Davin Meggett fumbled the first play on Maryland’s following possession, again setting Jackson up for chance to tie. This time from 48 but with the same result.
The Tigers stopped Maryland again but Richard Jackson’s third chance to tie never came to fruition after referees ruled that Kyle Parker fumbled on the Maryland 39-yardline with less than a minute to play.
“There are a lot of things that we can do just a little bit better,” said Coach Dabo Swinney. “We can be fine. It’s not like we haven’t been in position to win games.
“As a coach, you don’t panic. You can’t throw away everything good that you did.”
Up 10-0 at the end of the first quarter, Clemson had 141 yards of total offense but picked up only 133 over the final three.
“I think it just comes down to just making plays,” said Jacoby Ford, who scored his first career rushing touchdown on a 17-yard end around to put the Tigers up 10-0.
“The defense gave us opportunities. We had the opportunity to go down there to make plays, actually score a touchdown and get it in the end zone.”
With a 13-3 lead, the offense seemed to be hitting its stride before Maryland woke up and scored 21 unanswered points.
The Terrapins gained 194 yards in the second quarter after just 28 in the first. Chris Turner accounted for most of the second quarter damage, completing nine of 11 passing attempts for 139 yards and rushing five times for 22 yards. He finished the game 19 of 26 for 215 yards and two touchdowns.
Maryland responded to Jackson’s 51-yard field goal with a 76-yard drive that ended as Turner hit Torrey Smith for a 29-yard touchdown. Their next drive concluded with Turner hitting Ronnie Tyler for a four-yard score and 35 seconds to play in the half, giving the Terrapins a 17-13.
“The two-minute drive to end the half was probably the killer,” said Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.
Swinney didn’t see much energy in the first half from the defense.
“I think we missed tackles, they out beat us for a jump ball. But I thought we matched their energy in the second half,” he said.
The second half was a different story as Clemson gave up 62 yards and seven points.
Tony Logan’s third quarter, 43-yard punt return to the Clemson one-yardline set up Davin Meggett’s one-yard scoring run.
C.J. Spiller responded with a big special teams return of his own, willing Clemson back into the game with five minutes left in the third quarter on a not-so-typical Spiller kickoff return for touchdown.
Seemingly stopped around the Clemson 40, Spiller shook off and stiff armed his way through several Terrapin defenders. With one shoe on, he raced to pay dirt with fellow speedster Jacoby Ford making an important block just before crossing the Maryland goal line.
“They were up and they got real brave to kick it deep and my guys did a good job of holding them up and I just kept my feet moving,” Spiller said. “That’s the thing I’m always told, to keep my feet moving. I was surprised that I got loose.”
For the first time this season, he was held below 200 all-purpose yards. He carried 18 times for 72 yards, caught two passes for seven yards and had 103 kick return yards.