COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- If anyone was wondering how UCF would look against Maryland after not playing a game for more than three weeks, they got an emphatic answer Sept. 23 as the Knight made up for lost time by way of a 38-10 win over the Terps.
“Give credit to Central Florida,” Maryland head coach D.J. Durkin said after his team’s 28-point loss. “They have a good ball club, they were prepared, they played well, they made plays to win the game. Our guys as a team did not handle adversity well. So far this year in the only three games we’ve played, I think we’ve had adversity that we’ve handled and now we’ve had some where we didn’t. It certainly showed when we’re playing a good team like that.”
It was tight early in College Park, as the game looked to be heading toward a defensive battle. But once Terps starting quarterback Kasim Hill went down with a right leg injury midway through the first quarter, things began to unravel for Maryland, which was coming off of a two-week hiatus of its own.
Hill took off scrambling on a third and long when he was hit hard by multiple UCF defenders. The Terps true freshman signal caller remained down on the field after the play and eventually had to be helped off by trainers, unable to put any weight on his right leg.
Once off the field, Hill was carted back to Maryland’s locker room and sophomore quarterback Max Bortenschlager entered the game on the Terps’ next drive.
Bortenschlager’s very first play from scrimmage was a 19-yard strike to junior wide receiver DJ Moore for a first down, but Maryland’s offense stalled for the rest of the game after that and was unable to get anything going with Bortenschlager under center.
But Durkin wasn’t about to use losing his starting quarterback as an excuse for Maryland’s poor showing on Saturday.
“I told the team that they have to control what they can control,” Durkin said. “We say it to them all the time, injuries are a part of this game and things we can’t [control]. It is what it is. That’s part of our game. When someone goes down, the next guy comes in but it’s also on the other guys around him to really step up and elevate their level of play. We did not do that today and that’s why you see the score you saw.”
As far as an update on Hill’s injury goes, Durkin did not provide any further information after the game.
“I don’t have an update [on Hill],” Durkin said. “We’ll get him examined and know more tomorrow.”
Without a mobile quarterback, Maryland’s offense lost most of its flare and UCF was able to sniff out many of the Terps plays throughout the game. But Durkin was also sure to make it clear that the weight of Saturday’s blowout loss did not fall solely on the shoulders of Bortenschlager, who finished 15-for-26 passing with 132 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, but received very little in terms of help from the rest of his offense.
“They were able to load up the box and that’s why we talk so much about us being two-dimensional,” Durkin said. “It really helps us and it’s something we have to be able to do. I think to this point this year we’ve been able to do that and some of that was limited and taken away [today]. A lot of guys had their fingerprints on how that went today, not just Max. It starts with the O-line and receivers and running backs, across the board.”
Third down continued to be the Terps kryptonite on defense, dating back to last season, as Maryland finished just 2-for-13 on third-down conversions.
The Terps’ inability to maintain long drives on offense kept the Maryland defense on the field much too long against a high-tempo UCF offense that wore its opposition down by running 42 plays in the first half.
“We were on the field a lot but we have to be better no matter what the situation,” Terps senior linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. said. “Every time we’re on the field, we’re expected to make a stop no matter what the situation is.”
The Terps came into the game leading the Big Ten in rushing with 315 yards per game and 10 touchdowns on the ground, but Maryland was unable to find any running room against the Knights from start to finish on Saturday, posting just 42 yards out of the backfield.
“They just did their film study,” Terps junior running back Ty Johnson said. “They saw certain formations and the way we align and took advantage of it.”
The lone bright spot for Maryland’s offense was Moore, who continues to prove to be one of the best wideouts in college football this season. Moore finished the game with eight receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown, while moving into fifth all-time on Maryland’s receiving touchdowns list with 13 now for his career.
For an offense that relies heavily on big plays, Maryland had a hard time finding them against UCF, averaging just 3 yards per play on Saturday.
On the other side of the ball, Maryland’s run defense had been stout through two games, allowing just 98.5 yards on the ground per contest. But it was a different story against UCF. The Knights used multiple running backs and their versatile quarterback, McKenzie Milton, to rush for 250 yards on Saturday against the Terps.
Milton had an efficient game and Maryland had no answer for his dual-threat ability as he finished 18-for-30 passing with 178 yards and a touchdown, as well as 94 yards rushing on six carries.
“[Milton] was able to use his feet very well today,” Carter said. “We knew that he was a very capable quarterback at scrambling but we didn’t do a great job of keeping him inside the pocket. That was one of our keys, to keep him in the pocket because we wanted to make him beat us in the pocket. But we obviously didn’t do a great job of that.”
UCF’s Adrian Killins and Taj McGowan combined for 79 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, while Knights tight end Jordan Akins led his team with 57 receiving yards and a touchdown of his own.
“We knew their tight ends were very capable of running and catching,” Carter said. “They’re fast guys and we knew [Akins] was capable. That one right down the middle of the field, we just had a defensive bust and we didn’t communicate very well on that play. That’s just something we need to clean up when we get back to practice.”
Maryland’s defense let up yards in chunks against the Knights on Saturday and the Terps red zone defense, in particular, left a lot to be desired. UCF finished 5-for-5 in the red zone with four touchdowns and one field goal.
Protecting the quarterback was also a big issue for the Terps against UCF, which got to the Maryland passer five times on Saturday.
With the game already out of reach, UCF tacked on a defensive touchdown in the fourth quarter on a pass that was tipped into the air by Moore and into the hands of Knights cornerback Mike Hughes, who returned it for a pick-six to extend the Knights’ lead to 28 points.
The prospects of what appeared to be a promising season are now starting to look bleak for Maryland, which is now down to its third quarterback on the depth chart. If Bortenschlager is forced to start next week’s Big Ten opener against Minnesota because of Hill’s injury, it would be the third year in a row and fourth time in six years that Maryland will start at least three quarterbacks.
“We have to keep our head up and be ready because we start Big Ten play next week,” Carter said. “So we’ve got another challenge in Minnesota next week and we just have to have a good week of practice and go Minnesota.
“This loss is deflating but it’s not as deflating as it can be because we still have all of our goals in front of us. We start Big Ten play this week and we’re 0-0 in Big Ten, so we start fresh next week.”