By: Max Marcilla
The Maryland Terrapins were no stranger to adversity entering Saturday’s game against the UCF Knights.
In Week 1, the unranked Terps defeated then-No. 23 Texas in front of nearly 90,000 fans in Austin. The Terps lost their starting quarterback to an ACL tear in that game and started the game with a seven-point deficit after a pick-six on the third play from scrimmage. They still ended up with the victory and a well-deserved tombstone in the “graveyard” of Top 25 teams they have defeated.
But Maryland’s prior experience facing in-game adversity wasn’t evident against UCF, as the Terrapins dropped their first game of the season 38-10.
Rather, it was UCF that had to overcome adversity to steal a win on the road.
The Knights, who had not played a game in over three weeks because of Hurricane Irma, came into College Park and overcame the adversity that they experienced.
“I’m just proud to be the coach of these young men,” UCF’s head coach Scott Frost said. “They’ve been through a lot the last few weeks, the state of Florida has been through a lot. We’ve asked them to do a lot of things in our time here and they do everything we ask them.”
Perhaps UCF used the lengthy break to its benefit — Maryland running back Ty Johnson consistently praised the Knights’ play recognition, chalking it up to “watching their film.”
Maryland did not have the same fate when overcoming its challenges. In the first quarter, the Terps’ true freshman quarterback Kasim Hill injured himself after scrambling on a drop-back passing play.
“It’s part of the game and it’s something we talk about and have educated him on how to avoid hits,” Maryland head coach DJ Durkin said.
Sophomore Max Bortenschlager replaced Hill, but was unable to lead the offense with the same success it had seen in a record-breaking start to the season.
The Terps made a field goal on Hill’s final drive, taking a 3-0 lead, but were shut down for the next 3.5 quarters. The Bortenschlager-led offense scored just one touchdown and was ultimately ineffective.
It wasn’t just Bortenschlager, however. The dynamic running back duo of Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison combined for just 73 yards on 21 carries, a measly 3.5-yard average. UCF also recorded five sacks and returned an interception for a touchdown following a D.J. Moore drop.
Hill’s injury wasn’t the only point at which the Terps were victims of adversity. In the second half, after Bortenschlager’s lone touchdown, the Terps only trailed 21-10. It was still a two-possession game that — somehow — Maryland was still in.
The brief comeback attempt fell short, as the Knights marched down the field, converted a field goal to extend their lead, and then forced a Maryland 3-and-out.
“We’re always going to face some adversity,” linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr., said. “Coach [Durkin] does a good job of preparing us on how to handle these situations. We didn’t do that today.”
Maryland will travel to Minnesota next week for an afternoon Big Ten showdown, its first conference matchup of the season. Durkin’s team will have a chance to redeem itself, but it will need to be significantly better, regardless of which players are on the field.
Durkin said it best after the game.
“They were a team that was executing and we were a team that wasn’t.”