Don’t count Clemson coach Dabo Swinney among those expecting a walkover Saturday against Maryland in Death Valley. Despite the fact his team is favored by a season high 31 points, Swinney took the cautious approach about the Terps at his weekly news conference Tuesday even though this is a Maryland team which is as beat up as any team in the country.
The Terps top four quarterbacks have all gone down with injuries, three with torn ACLs and another with a broken foot. Four other starters also have been lost for the season with various injuries including leading tackler LB Demetrius Hartsfield who suffered a torn ACL last week.
Former linebacker Shawn Petty, a true freshman, is now the starting quarterback. He played the position in high school but was strictly on defense with the Terps until the injuries. By the way, Petty wears jersey #31 and his backup, TE true freshman Brian McMahon, wears #87.
In last week’s loss to Maryland, Petty was 9-18 for 115 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed 17 times for 24 yards.
Despite the offensive woes, the Maryland defense has been solid. They are 2nd in the ACC and 11th nationally in total defense allowing 302 yards per game. Perhaps their best defensive effort came at West Virginia in September. In a 31-21 loss, the Terps held the Mountaineers to 363 total yards and only 25 rushing yards. West Virginia is averaging 480 yards per game on the season.
The Terps are 4-5 but three of those losses have come by three points or less. But their victories also have been close with an average margin of victory slightly over five points.
“The mentality is exactly the same,” Swinney said. “This is the biggest game of the year. That’s sort of been our mentality all year, and nothing changes. The formula is exactly the same. We have to continue to prepare with purpose and have great effort with technique and all-in commitment. That’s what we talk about all the time and these guys have done a good job of buying into that.”
AUDIO: Swinney is taking nothing for granted against depleted Terps [7:24]
Swinney said running back Andre Ellington, who suffered a hamstring injury on his first carry against Duke last week and did not return, should be able to play Saturday but won’t be forced into action. TE Brandon Ford is also questionable after suffering an abdominal injury last week.
The teams have split the last 10 games in the series with Clemson winning the last two. Last year at College Park, the Tigers rallied from 18 down to win 55-46. Tajh Boyd passed for 270 yards and four touchdowns.
Saturday will be Homecoming for the Tigers and kickoff will be at 3:30 PM on ESPNU. Clemson has won 76% of its Homecoming games including 35 of the last 41. The last Homecoming loss was to Miami in 2010.