Clemson University

Tigers not letting big win alter focus

CLEMSON -- In retrospect, coach Tommy Bowden believed Clemson gained little from last year's four blowout wins because they failed to make the team any better.

So even before the Tigers' 70-14 clubbing of Central Michigan came to a merciful end, Bowden said he had turned the other cheek.

Nothing to see here.

"It's hard to read a lot into that win," Bowden said Sunday. "I know that team is capable of going out and beating a lot of people. But again, the way that game went, I don't know a lot much more now ... ."

Than he did before Clemson (5-2, 2-2 ACC) snapped its two-game losing streak, other than the team takes criticism to heart.

The legitimate gauge for how effectively the Tigers used their bye week comes in Saturday's 3:30 p.m. game at Maryland (4-3, 1-2), when conference division title hopes are back at stake.

As Clemson proved last month against Louisiana-Monroe, Furman and N.C. State, it can gut overmatched defenses with relative ease. Yet Bowden said the Terrapins always seem to give them offensive trouble, evidenced by the Tigers' inability to score more than 12 points in four of their last five meetings.

Maryland figures to have some soul-searching of its own on tap after dropping a heartbreaking 18-17 home decision to No. 21 Virginia in the final 30 seconds.

The injury bug that ravaged Clemson a year ago appears to have inflicted the Terps. In losing starting left guard Jaimie Thomas to a season-ending broken fibula against the Cavaliers, Maryland has been reduced to five scholarship linemen for the next several weeks.

Jordan Steffy, who started the first five games at quarterback, also has yet to be cleared from a concussion, likely meaning sophomore Chris Turner -- the third-stringer during fall camp -- will start Saturday.

"All you need is five offensive linemen," Bowden said. "Five have been blocking us for seven games."

Without coincidence, Bowden used Maryland's line problems as a segue to point out Clemson's disappointingly low sack totals -- perhaps attempting to stir the sharks with blood in the water.

School officials credit the Tigers with 11 sacks -- although the ACC has them down for 10 and the NCAA 12.

The two lower numbers put Clemson in at least a tie for last in the conference, which Bowden blamed on the lack of pass pressure generated by his defensive front four, although he admittedly overlooked the lack of passing situations in losses against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.

This would be a good spot to convey that Maryland is next-to-worst in the ACC in sacks allowed at 3.4 per game.

"We're going to have get a lot better rushing the passer," Bowden said. "We're getting single-blocked, which isn't good."

"You definitely have to let the guys enjoy this win a little bit. But they have to understand you need to improve, and consistently over seven games, that hasn't been one of our strengths on defense."