Maryland bounced back in a big way against Minnesota last weekend and started its conference record out at 1-0 despite entering the game as double-digit underdogs. After a poor showing at home the week prior against UCF, the Terps pulled themselves together beat the Golden Gophers on the road, 31-24.
In place of Kasim Hill, who tore his ACL against UCF, sophomore quarterback Max Bortenschlager started the second game of his career and performed admirably, leading Maryland to victory in the process.
Junior running back Ty Johnson and junior wide receiver DJ Moore continued to shine as two of the Big Ten’s best skill players, and the Terps defense made big plays when it had to.
To dive deeper into the Terps seven-point conference victory over the Golden Gophers, TSR gives out its football report card for Maryland’s win at Minnesota.
What more can be expected from a signal caller making the second start of his career? Bortenschlager remained poised in a hostile environment and did what he had to do to get the Terps the win. He was extremely efficient, going 18-for-28 passing for 154 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Bortenschlager has yet to turn the ball over in either of his two starts. He also showed that, despite being labeled as a pocket passer, he can take off and run when he needs to. Against Minnesota, Bortenschlager finished with 18 rushing yards and a touchdown, as well, while showing strong ability to run the read-option and Maryland’s offense as a whole. He didn’t hesitate to get the Terps top wideout target, DJ Moore, involved, showing great chemistry with the Philly product, and Bortenschlager also led Maryland to its best showing on third downs this season. Entering the game, the Terps were only converting 23 percent of their third-down attempts. With Bortenschlager at the helm, Maryland went 9-for-16 on third down against Minnesota.
USA TODAY Sports
Running Back: A
After a disappointing showing against UCF, Maryland’s offense got back to its bread and butter--running the ball. The Terps averaged 5.6 yards per carry as a team against the Golden Gophers, led by Johnson, who finished with 18 carriers, 131 yards and a 34-yard touchdown that sealed the game. Sophomore running back Lorenzo Harrison had his best game of the season, rushing 17 times for 75 yards. Fellow sophomore runner Jake Funk also got involved with two carries for 13 yards and a 4-yard touchdown reception in the beginning of the fourth quarter. The backfield helped Bortenschlager and the Terps offense control the clock while coming up with half of Maryland’s touchdowns.
Wide Receiver/Tight End: B+
Again, let’s take some time to reflect on how dominant Moore has been so far this season. Against Minnesota, Moore finished with eight receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown. His season totals are now up to 30 receptions, 503 yards and five touchdowns. He has solidified himself as Maryland’s biggest, and perhaps only reliable, receiving threat while putting on a show for NFL scouts. But outside of Moore, thing continue to look bleak for Maryland’s receiving corps. There is no help from the tight ends and seniors Taivon Jacobs and Jacquille Veii have looked like rotational players, at best, instead of starters. The player to look out for though is sophomore pass catcher DJ Turner, who had an unbelievable 22 yard grab on 4th-and-10 that set up Maryland’s first touchdown.
Offensive Line: A+
Maryland’s blockers were receiving a lot of praise until an abysmal performance against UCF. But the Terps offensive line redeemed itself in a big way against Minnesota. Maryland’s offensive front allowed no sacks, which was a huge factor in Bortenschlager’s success, and helped pave the way for the Terps to rush for 262 yards as a team. The Golden Gophers aren’t exactly known for their pass rush, but they had done a great job of stopping the run so far this year until the Terps offensive line got a hold of them.
Defensive Line: B-
While Maryland’s defensive line did an excellent job of stopping Minnesota’s run game, for the most part, the Terps weren’t able to get much push up front at all, which helped the Golden Gophers crawl back into the game. Like Minnesota, the Terps also recorded no sacks, and Golden Gophers quarterback Conor Rhoda was rarely under pressure. Despite allowing just 2.6 yards per carry to Minnesota, Maryland’s defense line was unable to stiffen up in the red zone and let the Golden Gophers score two rushing touchdowns.
The biggest glaring weakness for the Terps last Saturday was the play of Maryland’s linebackers. Although Jermaine Carter Jr. and Shane Cockerille led the team in tackles, as they usually do, anyone who watched the game could see how many times they were beat in coverage or stuffed on blitzes. Cockerille, in particular, was torched all day in pass coverage and was one of the main culprits that allowed the Golden Gophers tight ends to have a field day. Maryland could have had a much more dominant defensive performance if it had received better play from its linebackers.
USA Today Sports
Defensive Back: A-
Maryland’s secondary came up with two big interceptions that helped swing the momentum of the game. Safety Josh Woods picked off Rhoda in the second quarter right after being called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that cost his team 15 yards. Later in the contest, cornerback JC Jackson came up with an interception that capped off Maryland’s victory in the fourth quarter. Safety Darnell Savage Jr. and cornerback Tino Ellis also each played very solid games. As a whole, Maryland’s defensive backs didn’t let any Minnesota pass catcher record more than four receptions or 69 receiving yards. The play of Maryland’s secondary is even more impressive due to the fact that the Terps had virtually no pass rush in this game.
Special Teams: A-
Not a ton of notable special teams plays in this one, but there was one big kick that Terps fans should be excited about. Just before halftime, Terps kicker Henry Darmstadter nailed a 51-yard field goal to put Maryland ahead 17-10. It marked a new career-high for Darmstadter, who just won the Terps starting kicking job a few weeks ago. That was his only field goal attempt of the day and he did what he needed to do. This could have been an A performance by the special teams, but distance on kickoffs and hang time on punts still seem to be a concern for the Terps.
Overall Offense: A
Great showing by a unit that only put up 10 points at home the week prior. No one knew how the Maryland offense was going to react to playing with its third different starting quarterback already this year, but a lot of questions were answered against Minnesota and Bortenschlager proved he’s not a detriment to that side of the ball. If Bortenschlager can continue to protect the ball and keep Moore and Johnson involved, there could be more offensive performances like this in the future for the Terps.
Overall Defense: B
The turnovers Maryland’s defense continues to create, especially in the secondary, are a positive sign. However, there are still glaring holes in the Terps defense, mostly within the front seven. The pass rush hasn’t looked the same without Jesse Aniebonam, and understandably so. But linebackers continue to be out of position, which will get even more exposed against better teams.
Overall Team: A-
That’s how you bounce back after a tough loss. Hard to criticize a team too hard that heard it all the week before and responded the way it did to open up conference play. Maryland has a tall task ahead with a trip to Ohio State next up on the schedule, but the Terps have to be feeling better about themselves going into that game than they did after their defeat to UCF. The performance against Minnesota wasn’t perfect, but they beat the Golden Gophers in all three phases of the game.