COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — For three quarters, Maryland shrugged off all its injuries and made a game of it against No. 9 Clemson. And then, finally, the depleted Terrapins simply got worn out.
With standout quarterback Tajh Boyd leading the way, Clemson scored three touchdowns in the final 15 minutes and pulled away to a 40-27 victory Saturday.
Maryland (5-3, 1-3 ACC) trailed 19-13 entering the fourth quarter before it all unraveled.
Boyd scored on a 5-yard run and Roderick McDowell ran it in from the 3 to make it 33-13 with 7:57 remaining. After the Terrapins got a touchdown pass from Caleb Rowe, a 45-yard touchdown run by McDowell gave Clemson a 40-20 lead with 5:03 to go.
Earlier in the game, Maryland forced the Tigers (7-1, 4-1) to kick field goals after they reached the red zone. The trend didn’t continue in the fourth quarter, and the Terrapins lost for the third time in four games.
“We gave up a couple plays there late,” coach Randy Edsall said. “What we were going to have to do is just try to hold on and not let them score the touchdown late and kick field goals, but we weren’t able to do that in the fourth quarter.”
Maryland played without several key injured starters, including quarterback C.J. Brown, running back Brandon Ross, wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, and tight end Dave Stinebaugh.
Rowe went 19 for 45 for yards and three touchdowns, and Levern Jacobs had eight catches for 158 yards. But the Terrapins went 48 minutes between their first and second touchdowns and committed four turnovers.
“I feel like I did OK,” Rowe said. “Of course, I left plays out on the field, everyone did. But it just wasn’t good enough in the end.”
Still, it was an impressive showing against one of the finest teams in the country.
“We’re proving that we are developing depth here in our program and that the guys know that we as coaches believe in them, that if they’re on the field we feel as though they’re going to be able to get the job done. You kind of just preach that,” Edsall said.
Boyd threw for a touchdown and ran for a score, Sammy Watkins had a school-record 14 catches for 163 yards and McDowell rushed for 161 yards and two touchdowns to help the Tigers rebound from last week’s 51-14 defeat against Florida State.
“It’s good to get the win, get back on track,” coach Dabo Sweeny said. “We had a great week, we really did. I thought our guys bounced back. If there was a hangover, if we weren’t focused, this team could have gone south in a hurry. But it didn’t. It responded. That’s what great teams do.”
It was the seventh straight road win for the Tigers, their longest streak since a nine-game run in 1978-79.
“If you’re going to be a great program, you’ve got to win consistently on the road,” Sweeny said. “I’m just really proud of our guys for coming up here and taking care of business.”
Trailing 16-7 at halftime, Maryland converted fumbles by Watkins and McDowell into field goals to close to 16-13 with four minutes elapsed in the third quarter.
Sweeny said that might have been the turning point.
“Hats off to our defense,” he said. “When you put the ball down twice inside your own 20 and they only come away with six points, our defense responded.”
Boyd answered with a 68-yard drive before Catanzaro connected on a 24-yarder.
Despite making only three first downs in the third quarter, Maryland remained within striking distance until running back Albert Reid lost a fumble at the Maryland 31 and Clemson’s Spencer Shuey took it to the 22. Four plays later, Boyd scored to make 26-13 with 13:04 left.
That gave Boyd 112 touchdowns via run or pass, tied with Phillip Rivers for most in ACC history.
Watkins had 10 catches for 127 yards by halftime, and Clemson ran more than twice as many offensive plays as the Terrapins in building a nine-point cushion at intermission.
Down 3-0, the Terrapins got a big play from Jacobs in his first start of the year. Jacobs grabbed a short pass over the middle and sprinted into the end zone for a 71-yard touchdown.
Denied after getting a first down at the Maryland 2, the Tigers settled for a field goal to make it 7-6.
Then, after Jayron Kearse picked off a Rowe pass in the end zone, Clemson put together a 13-play march that ended with another field goal.
The Tigers finally got their first touchdown with nine seconds left in the half. After a 30-yard completion to Watkins, Boyd threw a 5-yard scoring pass to Jordan Leggett.
“I never thought that we were going to lose that game,” Maryland defensive back Sean Davis said. “Even when we were down at halftime, I always thought that, and the whole team thought that.”
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)