The Maryland football team had their worst fears realized in a 38-10 defeat at the hands of Central Florida.
In the first quarter, the Terrapins lost quarterback Kasim Hill to a leg injury. The injury occurred when the freshman signal caller spun away from a defender and took a viscious hit.
Shortly after being helped to the sideline, Hill was carted to the locker room.
With Pigrome already out, sophomore Max Bortenschlager played the remainder of the game under center. After Hill departed, things just didn’t seem to be the same in terms of the offense.
The Knights received a pair of rushing touchdowns from Taj McGowan that gave them a 14-3 lead at halftime. The teams traded scores in the third quarter before the Terps ultimately faded down the stretch.
It wasn’t pretty by any stretch, but here’s our three takeaways from the loss.
Bortenschlager isn’t the answer
Injuries to the quarterback position are nothing new for the Maryland football program.
In fact, Bortenschlager was forced to play as a true freshman last season when Perry Hills was out. The Indiana native started against Nebraska and threw for 191 yards and a touchdown in a 28-7 loss on the road.
Bortenschlager saw his fair share of struggles in that contest, but it wasn’t an even worse outing on Saturday. He completed 15-of-26 passes for just 132 yards while tossing a touchdown and two interceptions.
The lone touchdown was made possible by a miraculous catch by star wideout D.J. Moore. The throw was very high, but Moore was still able to reel it in for one of his eight receptions.
Based on his performance, it’s relatively clear why Bortenschlager wasn’t much of a factor in Maryland’s quarterback race this summer.
Bortenschlager failed to establish any type of consistency in the passing game. He also seemed to hold onto the ball too long at times, which resulted in five sacks by the Central Florida defense.
He only averaged 5.1 yards-per-pass. To put that into perspective, Hill was averaging 10.95 yards-per-pass while Tyrrell Pigrome had 14.58 in his lone game this season.
Bortenschlager just doesn’t have a ton of mobility and if he can’t get the ball out quickly, Maryland is going to be in big trouble.
It may have come as a surprise to many Maryland fans that Caleb Henderson wasn’t put into the game after Hill got hurt. However, Henderson has battled a foot injury throughout the bulk of the offseason, so he’s likely still not 100 percent.
Third down struggles
One of the main reasons that Maryland struggled offensively was their inability to convert third downs.
In Saturday’s loss, the Terps converted just 2-of-13 third downs against the Knights. In fact, Maryland didn’t get their first third down conversion until late in the third quarter when Bortenschlager found running back Ty Johnson for an 18-yard gain.
That happened to be the drive that Moore scored Maryland’s lone touchdown on.
The Terps had nine drives that lasted five or fewer plays on the afternoon. They were also forced to punt seven times, which is why Wade Lees had a 47.1 average punting the ball.
On the season, Maryland is converting just 23.3 percent of their third downs. That rate is good for last out of the 14-team Big Ten.
Purdue is the next closest with a 31.5 percent clip on the season.
Maryland has had the least amount of third down attempts so far this season. Part of the reason for that is their big play offense and not staying on the field for long drives.
The Terps were clicking on all cylinders through the first two games of the season. However, they’re going to have to put together longer drives and convert on tough third downs in order to be successful in Big Ten play.
Running game is human
Maryland’s biggest strength in the early going had been their stellar rushing attack.
However, Saturday proved that even the best can have an off afternoon once in a while.
Maryland had their worst performance on the ground in quite some time. The Terps rushed for just 42 yards on 37 carries (1.1 yards-per-carry).
Lorenzo Harrison III had 10 carries for 48 yards, but that was the best performance by any Maryland tailback. Johnson tallied just 25 yards on 11 carries and Bortenschlager being sacked five times certainly didn’t help their rushing average.
Playing from behind in the second half hurt Maryland because they couldn’t afford to keep running the ball. The Terps only had 10 designed running plays in the final 30 minutes.
This was an afternoon to forget on so many levels for the Maryland offense. However, regardless of who is under center, the Terps need to continue to run the football at an elevated rate.
Maryland still has one of the best running back tandems in the Big Ten. Johnson still has the potential to break off a 60-yard touchdown on any play.
Even if Bortenschlager isn’t the team’s starting quarterback, the running game still needs to be a major part of the offense.