Terps prepare for Clemson
COLLEGE PARK--After Maryland’s Week 1 win over Florida International, a game in which he caught nine passes for 110 yards and a touchdown, Deon Long sat in Gossett Team House and spoke to CSN.
He was asked if he thought he and his counterpart, Stefon Diggs, were the best receivers in the ACC. The name “Sammy Watkins” had been thrown around, the all-conference Clemson wide out who was part of the engine that drove the Tigers’ high-powered offense.
"We're going to practice like we're the best. We're going to play like we're the best," Long said on that day, then he paused briefly before continuing. "And I guess we'll see when we play Clemson."
But when that date with Clemson came, Saturday night in College Park, Long and Diggs could only watch, sitting in Maryland’s team academic center in Gossett as they each begin the long road back from surgery one week after breaking their legs against Wake Forest.
They watched as Watkins set a Clemson school record with 14 receptions for 163 yards, pacing the Tigers in a 40-27 victory over Maryland in front of an announced crowd of 48,134.
And head coach Randy Edsall watched, too, knowing his two best weapons to deliver any counterpunch were sitting in a room overlooking the field with casts on their legs, unable to help.
“They just line [Watkins] up and they throw him the ball...He’s an outstanding talent,” Edsall said. “We tried to do the best we could to contain him, but sometimes great players have good days and he had a good day today.”
Maryland’s best option to strap on the gloves and fight in their place, Levern Jacobs, did all he could.
The sophomore wide receiver had a career-high 158 yards on eight catches, the second-highest total for a Maryland wide receiver this season.
The only higher yardage total in 2013 came from one of the men in Gossett with a cast on his leg, Diggs, who had 179 yards in a Week 2 win over Old Dominion.
Diggs had texted Jacobs before the game in an effort to instill some sort of confidence in him. Jacobs assured Diggs that he would do his best to play as if Diggs or Long themselves were on the field.
“I think it’s definitely tough for him and Deon to watch us go and play there without them,” Jacobs said after the game. “Because they’re great players and they know that they could help us out.”
Early on Saturday afternoon, it appeared Maryland could go punch-for-punch even without Long and Diggs, as Jacobs broke free in the first quarter for a 71-yard catch and run from quarterback Caleb Rowe that gave the Terrapins an early 7-3 lead.
That was the second touchdown in as many weeks from Rowe to Jacobs, two teammates who are not only roommates, but players who have worked with each other extensively on Maryland’s second team during practice.
“He split the safeties like he’s told to do,” Rowe said, breaking down the touchdown. “Levern is a very fast guy, obviously, and he makes plays when he’s given the opportunity.”
Jacobs’ opportunity, of all times to come, was against the No. 9 team in the nation with his team as 16.5-point underdogs.
“We talked all week long, just playing as hard as we could and going out there and making it a 15-round fight,” Edsall said. “We needed to prove to people and nobody was really going to give us a chance because of the injuries.”
Maryland came close to that 15-round goal, down only 19-13 early in the fourth quarter before a fumble by running back Albert Reid taxed the defense one too many times and the floodgates were opened.
The Terrapins would stay on their feet and resist the knockout, but, so to speak, would win no more rounds.
“We’re going to accomplish the goals we want to accomplish this year. I don’t have any doubt about that,” Edsall said. “We’re going to accomplish what we need to accomplish, regardless of injuries or anything else."
Having a fighter like Jacobs step in certainly helps.
Maryland has a bye week coming up before they welcome Syracuse to College Park on Nov. 9. The Terrapins remain one win away from becoming bowl eligible.