Maryland may have been riding high after winning their sixth straight at Miami, because they were certainly off their game when they faced South Carolina for a Homecoming match up in College Park on October 30th, 1953. The Gamecocks were coming into the contest hot, having won four in a row against only one loss, and sporting the 5th-ranked defense in the nation. Maryland would also have to prepare for South Carolina star quarterback Johnny Gramling, who had been a headache for opposing defenses all season.
Early in the game Carolina’s defense had already lived up to their reputation. Maryland blockers had their hands full with defensive end Clyde Bennett, who consistently disrupted the Terrapin backfield. The Gamecocks forced four turnovers, three fumbles and an interception, which kept Maryland from gaining momentum. Fortunately, thanks to a Ralph Felton one yard plunge and a Chet Hanulak punt return for a touchdown, Maryland was able to gain an early advantage in the first quarter.
Yet the game did not get any easier for the Terps, who suffered through a very sluggish offensive performance. Quarterback Bernie Faloney’s arm was kept in check by the swarming Carolina defense, with the Terps QB passing for a mere 37 yards on eight attempts. As a result, it was up to the running backs and the defense to pick up the slack and get the Terps a victory. The running backs answered the call, combining for 213 yards on the ground, while the defense held Carolina’s rushing attack to just 37 yards. South Carolina was able to make it 14-6 in the second quarter, but that was as close as they got. Maryland held off the Gamecocks despite a sloppy performance, winning by a final score of 24-6.
While the Terps were able to squeeze out a needed victory, they didn’t look deserving of their high national ranking, and coach Jim Tatum took some heat for it. He was even accused of trying to take it easy against his old friend, South Carolina Coach Rex Enright. When asked about his team’s lackluster performance Tatum responded, “We knew Carolina had a very fine team, more so than they had been given credit for…We’re not the least bit disappointed with the outcome, as running against that big Carolina line was enough for one afternoon’s work.” Carolina’s Enright praised Maryland’s resilience saying, “Maryland has a great team. One of the finest that will be seen in the country this year.”
Maryland was able to win a game where they didn’t play well, like a championship team must during the course of a long season. Yet if they were to have a similar sub-par performance against future opponents Mississippi or Alabama, they might not be so lucky. Will Maryland be able to get their act together before next week, or have the wheels started falling off of the Terps’ bandwagon? See what happens as Maryland goes on the road to face George Washington.
Click here to read an article about Tatum defending his teams performance vs. South Carolina.