Maryland Football: Terps open up Big Ten play with Minnesota

COLLEGE PARK, MD - OCTOBER 15: Rodney Smith #1 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers is gang tackled by the Maryland Terrapins defense in the first half at Capital One Field on October 15, 2016 in College Park, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
COLLEGE PARK, MD - OCTOBER 15: Rodney Smith #1 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers is gang tackled by the Maryland Terrapins defense in the first half at Capital One Field on October 15, 2016 in College Park, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

The Maryland football team needs to forget last week’s game against Central Florida ever happened.

With a 38-10 loss in their rear view mirror, the Terrapins hit the road to begin Big Ten play as they face Minnesota on Saturday afternoon.

Maryland had already experienced adversity at the quarterback position with Tyrrell Pigrome tearing his ACL in the season opener against Texas. Still, coach D.J. Durkin didn’t hesitate in replacing him with true freshman Kasim Hill.

Hill had completed 18-of-21 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns while adding a rushing touchdown. Unfortunately, running the football is what landed Hill on the shelf.

In the first half of last Saturday’s game, Hill attempted to spin off of a defender to gain more yards and took a viscous hit. It looked bad at the time and those fears were confirmed when it was revealed that Hill suffered a torn ACL injury.

The Terps turned to Max Bortenschlager for the remainder of the game and it wasn’t pretty. Bortenschlager was sacked five times and a D.J. Moore acrobatic touchdown saved what would’ve been a horrific performance.

Maryland’s offense can’t get any worse with Minnesota on tap, so it’s going to be interesting to see what the gameplan looks like on Saturday.

Storylines to watch

  • More production from Bortenschlager – This isn’t the most thrilling quarterback matchup that the Big Ten has seen in recent years. Bortenschlager and Minnesota quarterback Conor Rhoda don’t have a ton of experience as starters and will most likely be game managers in this type of affair. As was mentioned above, Bortenschlager really can’t have a worse performance than he had against Central Florida. He completed 15-of-26 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown, but he also threw two interceptions and was sacked twice. The gameplan will be tailored more towards him, but he’s going to have to play smarter than last week. If Bortenschlager can rely on his talented playmakers to help him out, Maryland has a chance to pull off the upset in this one.
  • Two very lethal ground attacks – It’s no secret that Maryland and Minnesota have two of the most dangerous running games in the Big Ten. Ironically, the Terps have a very talented duo in Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison III as do the Golden Gophers in Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks. Saturday’s matchup pits two of the top four running teams against one another. The Terps are averaging 224.0 yards-per-game on the ground despite a dreadful performance against the Knights last week. On the other hand, Minnesota is tied for second in the conference with nine touchdowns, but averages a significant amount less per carry (5.8 to 4.1). Maryland definitely has a much higher upside for explosive running plays, but offensive coordinator Walt Bell is going to have to get creative with the play calling in this one.
  • Turnover battle – The Terps have done a much better job at getting turnovers early on in 2017. Maryland already has three interceptions, including one that safety Darnell Savage Jr. took back for a touchdown. The Terps haven’t had much success in the fumble department as they’ve forced just one so far. Linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. is responsible for that one forced fumble and he’s going to need to be a force against Minnesota. Maryland is going to need to get pressure on Rhoda all afternoon and try to swipe the football out of the breadbasket of the Golden Gophers’ playmakers. If Maryland can get a few turnovers, it’ll go a long way towards swaying the momentum in their favor.

Key player for each team

  • Ty Johnson (Maryland) – It was surprising to see the running game struggle the way it did against Central Florida. It was even more shocking that Johnson only registered 27 rushing yards. Johnson is currently averaging 10.0 yards-per-carry, which leads the Big Ten. Yes, Johnson has made more with his carries than Penn State’s Saquon Barkley. Maryland is going to need to get Johnson involved early on in any way they can. Even if Minnesota stacks the box and the running game isn’t working, Johnson could benefit from screen passes or any type of trick plays that Bell could have up his sleeve. If the Terps are going to win, Johnson has to make a big impact.
  • Tyler Johnson (Minnesota) – The Golden Gophers aren’t the most exciting team in the world. However, wideout Tyler Johnson can break off a big play at any time. Johnson doesn’t receive the abundance of targets that a D.J. Moore does, but his receiving yards are usually at a very high clip each game. If Rhoda gets time to throw, Johnson could do some damage. Maryland’s secondary is going to have to bring their “A” game against that speedster.

Projected starting lineups

QB: Max Bortenschlager (So.)
RB: Ty Johnson (Jr.) or Lorenzo Harrison III (So.)
WR: D.J. Moore (Jr.)
WR: Taivon Jacobs (Sr.) or DJ Turner (So.)
WR: Jacquille Veii (Sr.)
TE: Derrick Hayward (Sr.)
T: Derwin Gray (Jr.)
G: Sean Christie (Jr.)
C: Brendan Moore (Jr.)
G: Terrance Davis (So.)
T: Damian Prince (Jr.)
DE: Chandler Burkett (Sr.)
NT: Kingsley Opara (Sr.)
DT: Cavon Walker (Sr.)
BUCK: Chandler Burkett (Sr.) or Melvin Keihn (Jr.) or Bryce Brand (Fr.)
SAM: Jalen Brooks (Sr.)
NICKEL: Antoine Brooks Jr. (So.)
WILL: Shane Cockerille (Sr.)
MIKE: Jermaine Carter Jr. (Sr.)
CB: JC Jackson (Jr.)
S: Darnell Savage Jr. (Jr.)
S: Qwuantrezz Knight (So.)
CB: Tino Ellis (So.) or Antwaine Richardson (So.)
Special Teams
K: Adam Greene (Sr.)
P: Wade Lees (So.)
QB: Conor Rhoda (R-Sr.)
RB: Rodney Smith (R-Jr.)
WR: Tyler Johnson (So.)
WR: Demetrius Douglas (Fr.)
WR: Eric Carter (R-Sr.)
TE: Nate Wozniak (R-Sr.) or Brandon Lingen (Sr.)
LT: Donnell Greene (R-Jr.)
LG: Garrison Wright (R-Sr.)
C: Jared Weyler (R-Jr.) or Bronson Dovich (R-So.)
RG: Conner Olson (R-Fr.)
RT: Nick Connelly (R-So.)
DE: Winston DeLattiboudere (R-So.)
DT: Merrick Jackson (R-Sr.)
DT: Steven Richardson (Sr.)
DE: Carter Coughlin (So.)
LB: Kamal Martin (So.)
LB: Thomas Barber (So.)
LB: Jonathan Celestin (Sr.)
CB: Antonio Shenault (Jr.)
S: Antoine Winfield Jr. (So.)
S: Duke McGhee (R-Sr.)
CB: Kiondre Thomas (R-Fr.)
Special Teams
K: Emmit Carpenter (R-Jr.)
P: Ryan Santoso (R-Sr.)


This one is very tough to predict because we don’t know what percentage of the game that Bortenschlager will play. If he struggles, is Caleb Henderson going to see playing time or is he still not ready? Those are questions that Maryland fans will need to think about during Saturday’s matchup.

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The gameplan will be catered to Bortenschlager this week, so things really should improve. If the Terps get the ground game going early and can keep Minnesota off balance, they could pull off the upset on the road. Minnesota wins this one 24-17, but Maryland shows more fight than they did against Central Florida.