Special teams play is often times overlooked, even though it only takes one quick strike on special teams to change the course of a football game. When Maryland and Clemson met on October 3, 1953, the Terps showed the Tigers just how dangerous theirs could be. Quarterback Bernie Faloney returned the opening kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown, giving the Terps a 7 point advantage just seconds into the contest. Playing at home and determined to prevent the Terps from getting their third straight win, it wasn’t exactly the start that Clemson was hoping for.
Clemson’s luck only got worse as the game went on. In the second quarter, Tiger’s quarterback Don King took a shot to the knee that put him out of action for the rest of the game. Maryland’s defensive line applied heavy pressure on Clemson throughout the rest of the day, making it almost impossible for the Tigers to gain any momentum. Yet despite Maryland’s offense out-gaining Clemson’s 342-183, they took a modest 13-0 lead into the 4th quarter before the Tigers would suffer another special teams lightning strike. With only 45 seconds left in the game, halfback Dick Nolan returned a punt 90 yards for a touchdown, a Terps record that still stands today. The touchdown gave the Terps a more decisive looking 20-0 victory, and their second consecutive shutout.
Although the score didn’t reflect it, Maryland really struggled during the course of the game, and coach Jim Tatum noticed. He expressed afterwards that his players did not seem as energized as he had hoped coming into the game, and that despite the big plays they weren’t as sharp or explosive as usual. Tatum theorized that his teams lack of focus must have been due to preoccupation with the following week’s opponent, the Georgia Bulldogs.
You can review the complete stat sheets from this game here.
Be sure to check back next week as the Georgia Bulldog’s travel to College Park looking to knock off the Terps in a highly anticipated game.