Clemson and Maryland banked lopsided road wins in their conference openers Saturday, with the Tigers beating NC State 63-5 and the Terrapins blanking North Carolina 52-0.
In Chapel Hill, NC, Maryland led the Tar Heels 21-0 at halftime and added 31 after intermission. Senior inside center John Davis ran in three tries, Ben Shafer dotted down twice and Karl Rempe, Connor Whitcomb and Guy Lopresti each scored one.
“He had a good game,” said Maryland coach Jeff Soeken of Davis, his leading try scorer on the day. “Took a lot of ball into contact and pressed the other team all day long.”
Maryland’s defense was stout after it got plenty of practice against Navy last week. The Midshipmen owned possession in that game, which prepped the Terrapins for UNC’s forward-oriented attack.
“After playing Navy last week it really helped our defense,” said Soeken. “We were absolutely unfazed by pick-and-go and all the forward play that UNC wanted to do.”
Just over a half-hour away in Raleigh, Clemson struggled to a 17-5 halftime lead before blowing out NC State in the second half. The gritty Wolfpack forwards played keep away well in the opening stanza, stifling Clemson’s wide-open attack.
“NC State’s a team that can just gobble up possession and really grind you down. They’re a real forward-oriented bunch. We just didn’t have a whole lot of possession in the first half and many of the opportunities we had we just simply didn’t convert. We settled down, made a few adjustments in the second half,” said Clemson coach Justin Hickey.
“I think we were kind of going over the line of being aggressive kind of into reckless a little bit, whereas in the second half we recognized the times to settle it down and settle into our own patterns and be a little more patient. So we controlled the game much, much better in the second half, whereas NC State made it difficult in the second half.”
Once the Tigers were able to sustain possession through the phases, they worked the ball wide and exploited space on the perimeter, evidenced by the four-try performance of wing Nick Johnson.
“We’ve been good at getting the ball in his hands with plenty of space, and he’s a finisher. He’s fast, obviously,” Hickey said.
Johnson scored three tries in Clemson’s win over a men’s club last week, and the Tiger backline has been impressive so far this fall.
“It’s really where we’ve kind of made our living the last two weeks, but the forwards have done well. They’ve set the platform for us,” said Hickey.
“We’ve had a lot of high scoring games, but we’ve had a lot of tries where the ball’s gone through multiple phases, gone through multiple hands, so the team’s really been contributing all the way around.”
The third scheduled ACRL game of the week between Wake Forest and Virginia Tech was postponed. The Hokies face Maryland next week, and Clemson takes on Wake Forest. Virginia also hosts North Carolina.