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Four Observations On The Terps’ Loss To UCF

September 23, 2017
The Maryland football team lost to UCF, 38-10, Sept. 23. Here are four observations from the loss:

1. Kasim Hill would be a huge loss for Maryland.

Freshman quarterback Kasim Hill went down with an apparent right leg injury in the first quarter during a third and long situation. Terps head coach DJ Durkin offered no update after the game. 

Hill scrambled to his right and made a spin move to evade UCF linebacker Pat Jasinski, but he was hit hard by a host of Knights defenders well short of the line to gain. Hill stayed down on the field, where he was visibly shaken up and was attended to by the Terps’ training staff. 

“It’s part of the game. It’s certainly something we talk about and have educated him on about how to avoid hits and all that. But at the end of the day, he’s a competitor,” Durkin said. “I’ve got to watch the play again to see how it happened or what. It was a drop back pass and it was covered and he scrambled and got hit.”

Hill hopped off the field with the help of staff, and didn’t put any weight on his right leg. He was carted to the locker room and hopped into the Gossett Football Team House while still not putting any weight on his right leg.

“He just gave me a nod when I said, ‘I’ve got your back and we’re going to get things right,’” junior running back Ty Johnson said. “When someone comes out of the game like that, I just want to give them their space and then talk to them the next day.”

During the first two weeks of the season, Hill showed the skills that drew Maryland to him during his recruitment process. Calm and collected, Hill played more mature than his true freshman status, dutifully scanning the field until finding an open receiver and delivering strikes. Hill proved capable of running offensive coordinator Walt Bell’s run-pass option sets, while also possessing the mobility to make things happen with his feet outside the pocket.

2. Max Bortenschlager struggled in place of Hill.

Bortenschlager, the Terps’ third-string quarterback entering the season, completed 15 of 26 passes on the day. Bortenschlager wasn’t seen taking any snaps with the first team during camp practices open to the media this summer, and it’s unlikely he was taking a lot of snaps with the ones as Hill’s backup after Tyrrell Pigrome tore the ACL in his right knee at Texas Sept. 2.

On too many occasions, Bortenschlager stared down his first read, wasn’t on the same page with his receivers or held on to the ball too long and was sacked. Staring down targets -- which he did during his first handful of series -- was a sign Bortenschlager was pre-determining where to throw the ball, which gave UCF defensive backs the opportunity to break on the ball. 

“He played his heart out,” Johnson said of Bortenschlager. “It’s kind of rough being thrown into a situation like that. It’s rough for anyone, whether it’s a lineman, running back, wide receiver, linebacker or anything. It’s always going to be rough. But I think he handled it well and he played his hardest.”

Maryland’s offense lacked rhythm and fluidity without Hill; Bortenschlager has a different skill set than Pigrome and Hill, the two quarterbacks who got the vast majority of the run with the ones until this point. However, the Terps’ running game (73 yards on a combined 21 carries for Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison) wasn’t a huge help.

“They were able to load up the box and that’s why we talk so much about [how] us being two-dimensional really helps us and something we need 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,” Durkin said. “There was a lot of guys that have their fingerprints on how that went today, not just Max. It starts with the o-line and receivers and running backs, across the board.”

3. UCF had more energy than Maryland after Hill went down.

The Knights hadn’t played since their victory against Florida International Aug. 31 due to Hurricane Irma, and they played with a purpose.

UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton threw for 178 yards and ran for 94 more yards, which included a 55-yard run on a third down conversion. Milton led a 250-yard rushing performance by the Knights. Tight end Jordan Atkins (three catches, 57 yards and a touchdown) proved to be a tough cover for Maryland.

“He was able to use his feet very well today,” senior linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. said of Milton. “We knew he was a very capable quarterback 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 with that.”

UCF scored 24 second half points to seal the win, and the Knights’ defense matched the energy of their offense, particularly in defending the Terps’ typically productive rushing attack. UCF set the edge well and strung out the Terps’ perimeter runs. Johnson and Harrison never got going, and Bortenschlager was pressed into obvious passing situations on second and third down. 

“When someone goes down and the next guy comes in, it’s also on the other guys around them to really step up and elevate their level of play, and we did not do that today and that’s why you see the score you saw,” Durkin said.

4. Maryland plays Minnesota next week to kick off Big Ten play.

If Hill has a long-term injury, the Terps have to hope that some of Bortenschlager’s issues can be fixed with valuable repetitions with the first team offense during the week. They’ll also have to figure out a viable backup option to Bortenschlager; as junior Caleb Henderson is still recovering from a right foot/ankle injury suffered during the spring. The only two other quarterbacks on the roster are walk-ons Ryan Brand and Legend Brumbaugh. Offensive coordinator Walt Bell said Sept. 6 the emergency quarterbacks are Johnson and Harrison.

Defensively, the Terps will have to clean up breakdowns that led to big plays for UCF, including runs of 55 and 44 yards and passes of 32, 29 and 23 yards. 

Minnesota will enter its game against the Terps Sept. 30 at 3-0 after a bye this week.

“It’s deflating, but it’s not as deflating as it can be, because we still have all our goals in front of us,” Carter said of the loss to UCF. “We’re 0-0 in Big Ten. We start clean, start fresh next week.”

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox