Topic: On This Date: 1988 (16)Clemson- 49 Maryland- 25
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On This Date: 1988 (16)Clemson- 49 Maryland- 25

Posted: Nov 12, 2020, 12:39 PM

College Park, MD


By Dave Sell
November 13, 1988

There were no tears as there were in the wasted defeat to Wake Forest. There was no shaking of heads as there was in the frustrating loss to Penn State. This one was clear cut and left no doubt: Clemson 49, Maryland 25.

Maryland Coach Joe Krivak was saying this week how the best team doesn't always win, and that's why they make you play the game. Well, they played the game yesterday -- what was essentially the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game -- and the better team won. It took a half before it all kicked in, but the strength, speed and power of the Tigers simply overwhelmed the Terrapins before a sellout crowd of 45,000 at Byrd Stadium.

Clemson (8-2 overall, 6-1 in the ACC) began the season hoping for a national title, but will have to settle for its third straight ACC title and a second consecutive trip to the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, where it probably will play the Big Eight runner-up, either Oklahoma or Nebraska, on Jan. 2. Maryland began the season hoping for respectability and the Terrapins (5-5, 4-2) achieved that, but their unexpected hopes for an ACC crown were overrun by a Clemson option attack that piled up 373 yards rushing.

The Terrapins will finish the season Saturday at Virginia, where a victory would give them second place in the ACC and their first winning season since 1985. There have been 6-5 teams that have gone to bowl games, but this Terrapins team almost assuredly is not going to be another of them.

"I think we've counted that out," said Maryland quarterback Neil O'Donnell. "We had to win one of the big ones -- Penn State or today."

This big one was not anywhere near as close as last week's 17-10 loss at Penn State, although the first half was about even. Maryland scored on the game's first possession and the crowd went wild, with visions of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and the rest of the Disney World folks dancing in their heads. The Terrapins also led, 14-10, but they allowed a field goal on the last play of the half. It only hastened the inevitable, for in the second half, the Tigers scored touchdowns on all five of their possessions.

"We're not at that level right now," Krivak said of the Tigers. "I thought we had a good game plan. What we tried to do, the idea was there. But in this case, the better team with the better personnel won a game."

Maryland drove 76 yards on its first possession, and Ricky Johnson scored on a seven-yard run for a 7-0 lead with 10:15 left in the quarter. It was the first first-quarter touchdown Clemson has allowed in 11 games, but it was the high-water mark for Maryland, which simply couldn't keep pace with a Clemson offense that alternated one set of fast running backs with another.

Knowing what's coming, and stopping it are two entirely different things.

Maryland knew it had to control the ball and score when it had chances. The Terrapins occasionally tried an unbalanced line, but still managed only 115 yards rushing and 363 in total offense.

Maryland practiced all week for the option, but Clemson quarterback Rodney Williams (11 carries for 65 yards) and the ACC's top runner, Terry Allen (19 carries for 110 yards), played keep-or-pitch all afternoon. The Tigers finished with 512 yards in total offense and never punted.

The Terrapins knew that when the Tigers send a man in motion, they always run to that side. They also knew that Clemson's big wide receivers would block the man responsible taking the option-pitch back.

"When it's 235 pounds against 175 pounds, it's a mismatch all day," Maryland cornerback Irvin Smith said of Clemson's 6-foot-4 wideout Keith Jennings. A block by Jennings allowed Allen to somersault into the end zone for the first of his two touchdowns, which gave Clemson a 28-17 lead with 12 seconds gone in the fourth quarter.

The Terrapins knew that Clemson passes infrequently, but that Williams had beaten them on touchdown passes of 44 and 50 yards last year. Williams, who won his 30th game as a starting quarterback and was nine of 14 for 139 yards, threw only one long pass, but he made good on it. The 45-yard toss to Gary Cooper took Clemson to the Maryland 8 as the clock wound down in the first half. The Tigers, without any timeouts, hurried the field goal team onto the field, and with the clock stopped to move the chains, kicked a 22-yarder to cut Maryland's halftime lead to 14-13.

Maryland knew that Clemson's idea of creativity was to run a reverse off the option because the Tigers had done it last year, when they defeated Maryland, 45-16, in Death Valley. As expected, Clemson ran the reverse, with Cooper lining up wide right and taking the pitch from Williams. The Tigers did it twice and scored both times.

The first time, Maryland outside linebacker Jack Bradford forced Cooper back inside, but the pursuit wasn't there, and Cooper scored from 52 yards out to tie the game, 7-7. The second time Cooper ran the reverse, it only added insult to injury, but once again it showed that speed can mean the difference between being home for the holidays and practicing for a bowl game. Outside linebacker Mark Walsh saw the reverse coming and seemed to have good position. But as Walsh broke down to try to make a tackle, Cooper shifted gears and went by him to the outside for a 20-yard touchdown and a 42-17 lead.

"He and I were shuffling," Walsh said. "But he was just too quick."

Johnson, who led Maryland in rushing with 64 yards on 18 carries, scored all three of Maryland's touchdowns. His second came on a 24-yard pass from O'Donnell and gave Maryland a 14-10 lead with 7:38 to go in the first half.

The odd part of the play was that, as O'Donnell approached the line, he turned and saw that Johnson was lined up on the wrong side of fullback Dennis Spinelli. He shifted Johnson to the right side and then lined up behind his left guard. He quickly moved over, got the snap, faked to Spinelli and hit Johnson for the score.

Johnson's last touchdown (and a two-point conversion pass) cut the Clemson lead to 49-25. But, by then, it was clear who the better team was on this crystal clear day.

"Yeah, they were the better team," Smith said. "We hung with them for a half and we didn't give up. We gave it our best shot, but they are a powerful offensive team and they overpowered us."

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Re: On This Date: 1988 (16)Clemson- 49 Maryland- 25

Posted: Nov 12, 2020, 3:10 PM

Holy cow! Look at the block in the first frame. The Terp player loses mouth piece and helmet. Wonder if he left for the next play or the rest of the game?

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