By Max Marcilla
It may not be regarded as a heated rivalry — at least not yet — but something unbelievable always seems to happen when the Maryland Terrapins and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights meet.
In 2016, a Terp win clinched a bowl game for head coach DJ Durkin’s squad. In 2015, Maryland erased a 21-point deficit to steal a road win. In 2014, Rutgers overcame an even larger deficit to top the Terps in the first Big Ten meeting between the two teams.
The story from the 2017 game: another comeback. This one not as large, but Rutgers’ 31-24 come-from-behind victory was as damaging to the Terps as any Big Ten loss.
Maryland’s 24-17 lead quickly become a 31-17 deficit, and the 4-5 Terps’ hopes of a second consecutive bowl game were put on life support.
“This series has been crazy since I’ve been here because every game has been a great game or a comeback,” senior linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. said. “I just with we could’ve come out on the winning side today.”
The conference bout started off in Maryland’s favor, as a 10-minute long scoreless tie was broken when Max Bortenschlager connected with Ty Johnson for a six-yard score. It was Johnson’s second touchdown reception of his career.
The drive was set up by a long 43-yard catch-and-run by Taivon Jacobs, who had his best game of the season in the loss. The senior recorded a career-high in receptions (six) receiving yards (96).
“[Jacobs] had some big catches, especially on third down,” Durkin said. “He showed some toughness too — he took a couple hits over the middle and kept on going.”
Although Maryland grabbed the early lead, the Scarlet Knights stormed back, scoring 17 unanswered points, and took a 17-7 lead. The run was capped off by Bortenschlager’s third pick-six of the season. On the third-down play, the Indiana native was pressured, lobbed up the ball into heavy traffic and was intercepted by Kiy Hester, and returned 52 yards down the left sideline into the end zone.
Bortenschlager’s response to the blunder kept Maryland in the game, as he led a nine-play, 76-yard drive on the Terps’ final possession of the first half. Once again, Jacobs was a catalyst, as he drew a defensive pass interference in the end zone that set up a two-yard scoring run by Lorenzo Harrison.
The back-and-forth affair tilted in the Terps’ direction after a flawless eight-play, 90-yard drive to open the second half. The go-ahead score, a four-yard Ty Johnson run, was set up by Jake Funk’s career long 53-yard rush on third down.
Down 24-17 after a Maryland field goal, the Scarlet Knights refused to go down easy, as they were in pursuit of their third Big Ten win in the last four weeks.
As the third quarter wound down, Rutgers put together its most impressive drive of the game — an 11-play, 77-yard drive that concluded with a game-tying 10-yard touchdown run by Robert Martin on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Then, just minutes later, Rutgers was able to take the lead against after a lengthy drive ended with a 23-yard connection from Giovanni Rescigno to running back Gus Edwards.
Ryan Brand, a redshirt sophomore quarterback, was in charge of leading Maryland’s final drive in an attempt to save the game after Bortenschlager left with an injury. Brand, the fifth quarterback to take a snap for the Terps in 2017, led a long drive and converted a fourth down, but came up just short.
On a 4th-and-10 from Rutgers’ 15, Brand’s pass intended for DJ Moore was broken up, securing the victory for the Scarlet Knights.
Durkin did not agree with the no-call to end the game.
“The last play to DJ, it looked to me like it was [defensive pass interference],” Durkin said.
Maryland will look to keep its postseason hopes alive when it returns home to play Michigan in College Park next Saturday.