With memories of past letdowns fresh, Tigers not overlooking enigmatic Terps

Paul StrelowSeptember 23, 2008 

Clemson's James Davis sprints around the corner as S.C. State's Markee Hamlin pursues in the first quarter Saturday.

ERIK CAMPOS • THE (COLUMBIA) STATE

CLEMSON -- When Clemson followed through on running back James Davis' guaranteed win at Maryland last year, coach Tommy Bowden presented Davis with a game ball and a caveat.

In the future, Bowden said, keep such proclamations within the confines of the Tigers' team meetings.

Clemson's four-game homestand concludes with Saturday's noon contest against the Terps, and Davis smiled when pressed Monday for any type of definitive declaration.

"I guarantee that I'll be there at the game," Davis said.

Until two weeks ago, it appeared just showing up would be sufficient for 20th-ranked Clemson (3-1, 1-0 ACC) against the Terps (3-1, 0-0), making them the Tigers' final tuneup before the meat of the ACC schedule.

Yet Maryland's recent reclamation may serve as proof there are no guarantees, especially in a league beset by parity.

In their season-opener, the Terps trudged to a 14-7 victory against Delaware, a Football Championship Subdivision opponent.

Then they responded with a languid 24-14 defeat at Middle Tennessee.

So what does Maryland do the next week? It beats then-No. 23 California 35-27, taking possession of perhaps the ACC's best and worst nonconference outcomes this season.

The momentum carried into last weekend's 51-24 thumping of Eastern Michigan, the Terps' largest margin of victory at home in five years.

"(The California win) got my attention," senior receiver Aaron Kelly said. "It's going to be a real first challenge for this ACC stretch."

After Saturday's game, Clemson has a bye week before the Oct. 9 Thursday night game at Wake Forest -- the team voted likeliest to threaten the Tigers' shot their first ACC championship game appearance.

Clemson then plays host to Georgia Tech before another bye week precedes consecutive road games at Boston College and Florida State.

With the team's regular season figuring to be defined by those four games, Bowden hopes the Tigers avoid falling into the same trap they did against Maryland in 2006.

Coming off the team's crushing loss at Virginia Tech, the Death Valley crowd still seemed to be in mourning for the noon kickoff. And Clemson put on a lifeless performance to boot, dropping a 13-12 decision to the Terps, a loss that ultimately cost the Tigers the Atlantic Division title.

Yet Bowden believes the Tigers need not dip so deep into their memory banks for psychological perspective.

Maryland has beaten its one ranked opponent while Clemson was throttled by its only highly regarded foe, Alabama, which was unranked in the preseason but has ascended to No. 8.

Of all the Tigers' issues and concerns, Bowden said playing with a sense of urgency should no longer rank among them.

"I would think we wouldn't have to be reminded of (2006), based on how we showed up that first game," Bowden said.

"I'm hoping this team doesn't need that type of motivation with what's already happened this year."

WANT TO GO?

MARYLAND (3-1, 0-0 ACC) AT CLEMSON (3-1, 1-0 ACC)

• When: Noon Saturday

• Where: Memorial Stadium, Clemson

• TV: CBS (cable channel 5 in Rock Hill)

• Tickets: Available at 1-800-CLEMSON

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