COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — C.J. Brown found out during warmups that he would be making his first college start against the eighth-ranked team in the nation.
If he was nervous, it sure wasn’t evident by the way he played.
Brown ran for 162 yards, scored one touchdown and passed for three, but it wasn’t enough to prevent Maryland from blowing an 18-point lead in a 56-45 loss to Clemson on Saturday night.
Brown and Danny O’Brien competed in practice during the week, and it wasn’t too long before kickoff that Brown got the nod from coach Randy Edsall.
“Me and Danny were both preparing that we were going to be the starter, and then we found out during pregame warmups, right before the game, what Coach Edsall decided to do,” Brown said.
Brown was magnificent. In addition to his rushing total, he completed 17 of 35 passes for 177 yards.
“Being my first start, I was excited,” he said. “I had the nerves, I had the energy. It felt good to get out there and show what I could do. It just stinks that we came up short. Top 10 team in the country coming into our house, in Byrd, great atmosphere.”
The quarterback made a big impression on Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.
“We couldn’t catch Brown,” he said. “He added a new dimension to their offense.”
Tajh Boyd threw four touchdown passes and freshman Sammy Watkins scored three TDs for the Tigers (7-0, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who trailed 28-10 late in the first half and 35-17 in the third quarter. Boyd went 26 for 38 for 270 yards as the catalyst of an offense that amassed 576 yards.
Watkins scored on an 89-yard kickoff return that put Clemson up 49-45 with 7:24 left. Watkins returned an earlier kickoff 70 yards, and his 345 all-purpose yards set a school record. Andre Ellington rushed for a career-high 212 yards and two
touchdowns for the Tigers, who have scored at least 35 points in all but one game this season.
“We overcame some big, big mistakes,” head coach Dabo Swinney said. “We’re 4-0 in the ACC, and that’s a good place to be.”
Maryland (2-4, 1-2) provided Clemson with an enormous scare, but the Tigers had too much offense for the Terps to overcome.
After Brown threw a 32-yard TD pass to tight end Matt Furstenburg to put Maryland up 45-42, Watkins took off on his decisive kickoff return and Ellington clinched it with a 44-yard touchdown run with 3:55 to go. A near-upset wasn’t good enough for the Terrapins, who have lost four of five.
“They don’t measure how close you were,” said running back Davin Meggett, who scored twice. “Either you win or you don’t. Either she’s pregnant or she’s not.”
Edsall said: “This is a tough one. I thought that we did some good things tonight, but we just didn’t do them consistently good enough for the 60 minutes.”
Maryland took its second 18-point lead early in the third quarter when Brown capped a 78-yard touchdown drive with a 22-yard pass to Furstenburg. Boyd responded with a 13-yard TD pass to Watkins to make it 35-24. After each team kicked a field goal, Boyd connected with Watkins for 51 yards, ran for 4 and threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Watkins.
The 2-point conversion got Clemson to 38-35 entering the fourth quarter. The comeback became complete when Boyd threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Jaron Brown with 11:26 left to end an 80-yard drive. Clemson would be forced to rally again, but Boyd, Watkins and Ellington were up to the challenge.
Maryland led 28-17 at halftime, but left the field lamenting several missed opportunities. The Terrapins dropped two potential interceptions, and Ronnie Tyler muffed a long pass late in the second quarter inside the Clemson 25.
The Tigers opened the game with a 95-yard drive but had to settle for a field goal. Maryland then punted, but Watkins dropped the kick and the Terrapins recovered. Two plays later, Meggett ran in from the 9. A second turnover produced a second Maryland touchdown, this one a 46-yard interception return by Cameron Chism that made it 14-3. But Watkins took the subsequent kickoff 70 yards to the Maryland 30. That set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Ellington, who had 81
yards on 12 carries in the first quarter.
The Terrapins then let their offense do some work, and Brown complied. He threw a 40-yard pass to Furstenburg, then completed the 70-yard march with a 7-yard pass to Meggett. Clemson punted again, and Brown ran for 47 yards in a 70-yard drive, including a 21-yard sprint to the end zone for a 28-10 lead.
Not to be outdone, Boyd passed and ran for 69 yards during a 73-yard march that ended with his 6-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)