By: Austin Kleber
In the last three weeks, Maryland has started three different quarterbacks. In 180 minutes of play, only one of those quarterbacks led the Terps’ offense to pay dirt.
It was a freshman in his first career start.
Freshman Max Bortenschlager threw for 191 yards and one touchdown, as Nebraska pummeled the Terps in Lincoln, 28-7.
The move to start Bortenschlager came as a surprise to many, given that he took limited snaps in a 40-point blowout of Howard earlier in the season. The other options, backups Tyrrell Pigrome and Caleb Rowe, both had more starting experience.
“I think [Bortenschlager] handled the situation well,” head coach DJ Durkin said. “Max had a really good week of practice. Like any other position, we let guys go compete and Max earned it through the way he prepared and practiced.”
Bortenschlager was on his own for much of the game, as the Maryland rushing attack was once again stunted. With star running back Lorenzo Harrison suspended after being charged with assault and reckless endangerment charges for an on-campus airsoft gun incident, Ty Johnson received most of the carries.
“[Lorenzo’s] a great player. Having him play would definitely help, but we have other guys who are really talented players and might have to step up a bit more,” offensive lineman Michael Dunn said. “Overall, I think that group has a lot of depth. They’re doing their job, but we’ve also gone against some really talented defenses the past few weeks.”
Johnson carried the ball only seven times for 21 yards. Maryland running backs combined for a total of 36 rushing yards on 13 carries.
“We struggled to run the ball. Throughout this year, that has been a constant thing that we’ve been able to [do] just about every game,” Durkin said. “We weren’t able to do that today so that affected Max [Bortenschlager], as well. … [When] you can’t run the ball, that’s hard on any quarterback, especially a freshmen and especially in a hostile environment, but I think he handled the situation well.”
Despite the offensive woes, there was one bright spot: a 92-yard touchdown pass off of a tunnel screen from Bortenschlager to sophomore receiver DJ Moore.
The Terps snapped the ball from their own 8-yard line and the offensive line immediately collapsed. Bortenschlager back-pedalled to the edge of the endzone and dumped the ball off to Moore as a Nebraska defensive lineman chased him down.
Moore secured the ball and immediately cut back to sidestep his way through four would-be tacklers, leaving them all grasping at air. He zigzagged his way to two more missed tackles and was off to the races with nothing but open field in front of him at the 50-yard line.
“I would say that was one of the best touchdowns I’ve had in my life,” Moore said. “I didn’t know the two [Nebraska players] were coming until I just looked at the video, so I just split them. I saw open grass to the right, and I ran to it.”
Regular starter Perry Hills is still dealing with a shoulder injury and head coach Durkin hopes he will be back to help the team clinch bowl eligibility against Rutgers next Saturday.
“Perry’s not healthy enough to play and play effectively. It was not in the best interest of him or our team, so that’s why he wasn’t playing,” Durkin said. “I can’t predict seven days from now how Perry is going to feel. He’s one of the toughest I’ve ever been around. If he can go at all and is able to, he will, but I don’t know [how he will feel].”
The Terps’ first half defensive issues continued again this week, as the Terps were outscored 21-0 before halftime. The Huskers ran the ball all over the defense for 181 yards. Nebraska running back Terrell Newby turned in his third-best rushing performance of the season, racing for 98 yards and three touchdowns.
Maryland also struggled mightily against Nebraska’s third down offense. Nebraska converted eight of 17 third downs and six of those conversions came in the first half. Durkin said the Huskers were so good on third down in the first half that it made him “want to puke.”
“Like every other team, we made adjustments at halftime and those adjustments paid dividends,” linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. said. “We were able to get off [the field] on third down [in the second half], whereas in the first half … we just had trouble getting them off the field.We made strides in the second half and got better.”
The Terps matched Nebraska’s 7 points in the second half, and Durkin said he looks to draw on that to carry the momentum over to next week.
“[In the second half], we played more like what we’re capable of and how we should be playing,” Durkin said. “All in all, credit to Nebraska.They have a good team, they won the game, but we just have to play better, start faster, and I think we will.”