Clemson University

Tigers snap Terps

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- James Davis made another guarantee Saturday night.

No more guarantees.

Clemson got its money's worth out of Davis' limited warranty.

Claiming to have been sparked by their star tailback's promise of a victory, the Tigers backed up the show of support by delivering a thorough 30-17 thumping of Maryland that keeps hopes of an ACC title alive.

"It was a lot of pressure," Davis said. "I was sweating on the bus just thinking about it."

Turned out Davis was sweating the small stuff.

Maryland running back Lance Ball had responded to the guarantee by declaring Davis would "feel like a dummy" when the Terps triumphed.

By the fourth quarter, the question was not whether the Tigers (6-2, 3-2 ACC) would prevail, but by how much.

With its offense moving the ball at will and the defense living up to its national rankings, Clemson led 30-3 until the Terps (4-4, 1-3) tacked on a pair of scores in the final 11 minutes.

The only setback occurred thereafter, as receiver Jacoby Ford broke his ankle on an option run midway during the fourth quarter and will miss the rest of the season.

But the Tigers at least accomplished their mission of keeping their schedule length unsettled. Needing a victory to stay the course with No. 2 Boston College (4-0 ACC) and Wake Forest (4-1) in the Atlantic Division, the Tigers effectively made it a three-team race while gaining bowl eligibility before next Saturday's noon game at Duke.

"We're down to a four-game schedule," coach Tommy Bowden said. "The most important game's the next one, so we're going to try to keep that mode of operation if we can."

They might want to retain the game plan that establishes the presence of its top two playmakers early, too.

Afterthoughts in Clemson's two losses, Davis and fellow tailback C.J. Spiller were again at the forefront of the offensive success, perhaps proving that the running game's rebirth in last week's 70-14 clubbing of Central Michigan was not so much a fluke.

Davis netted 129 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 29 carries, while Spiller added 106 yards on 17 carries -- improving the team's record to 5-0 when the duo combines to top 200 yards. Their record is 8-2 when Davis notches at least 20 carries, and those two losses were one-point defeats.

The 30 points marked the most Clemson has scored against Maryland under seventh-year coach Ralph Friedgen, whose balanced offense lends to ball-control, lower-scoring contests.

Instead, the Tigers beat the Terrapins at their own game, winning time of possession by 13 minutes while keeping the Terps guessing with its more potent passing game.

"I'm glad James said what he said because it motivated the rest of the team," junior receiver Aaron Kelly said. "If he had confidence in us, we should have confidence in ourselves."

Held to a mere four field goals in last year's 13-12 defeat, Clemson converted two of its five red-zone trips into touchdowns this time and got a pair of touchdown passes from junior quarterback Cullen Harper, who moved into a tie for the school record for single-season TD throws with 21.

"It seemed like they never knew what was coming," Harper said.

On the other side of the ball, one could argue Maryland never knew what hit them.

Just as it did against Central Michigan, the Tigers yielded a lengthy opening drive that culminated with a 35-yard field goal that put the Terps ahead 3-0 with 3:33 left in the first quarter.

And just as occurred a week ago, Clemson subsequently applied the vice grip.

In its next seven drives, Maryland accrued 85 yards in 29 plays. One of its four first downs came when linebacker Erin Henderson gained 4 yards on a fake punt from the Terps' 29 on fourth-and-one.

More than half of Maryland's total yardage (165 of 314 yards) was recorded in its final two desperation drives when Clemson had the outcome in hand.

"Our defense got tired because they were on the field a lot," Friedgen said.