Right after Maryland football's 38-10 loss to UCF Sept. 23, Terps head coach DJ Durkin expressed disappointment in how his team's energy dipped after freshman quarterback Kasim Hill went down with what turned out to be a torn ACL.
A few days later, Durkin's assessment of his team's loss didn't change. The coach said Hill's injury "kind of took the wind out of our sails."
Hill was injured on the Terps' second drive of the game, and UCF outplayed the Terps for the rest of the contest and dominated the second half. It marked the second time in three games Maryland lost its starting quarterback, as sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome suffered a torn ACL during a win at Texas Sept. 2.
"It was just a hard hit for the team, and we didn't respond well to it," Maryland sophomore running back Lorenzo Harrison said of Hill’s injury. "Just something we had to go through, and we're just moving on to the next man up now. … Since it was the same position, you know that your starting quarterback got hurt and your backup quarterback got hurt. I guess it was just too much for some people to handle at the time."
The next man up for Maryland was sophomore Max Bortenschlager, who largely struggled, going 15-for-26 for 132 yards. Bortenschlager, who will start at Minnesota Sept. 30, will have the benefit of a week's worth of snaps with the first-team offense.
"To be better prepared to be in that role, it's good to know that you're going to be in that role for the rest of the season," junior center Brendan Moore said. "He knows now that he's the guy. We've all spoken to him. We all have faith in him. He's a good quarterback. And now that he has the right mindset, I think he'll do well."
Bortenschlager was clearly not on the same page as his receivers on multiple occasions during the loss to UCF. At one point on a third-and-10 situation late in the first half with Maryland down, 14-3, Bortenschlager had wide receiver DJ Moore in single coverage on the outside, but Moore pushed his route up the field while Bortenschlager thought he'd break off his route. Bortenschlager's pass sailed well behind Moore.
Bortenschlager was also sacked five times, though he was generally given enough time to at least get rid of the ball.
"Max is a tough kid," Durkin said. "He went in in a tough spot. It was a gutsy performance. He did really well. It wasn't perfect, but who would expect it to be? He's tough; he competes. Max has confidence in himself; we have confidence in him. Now, having a full week to prepare and practice where we can tailor the game plan to him as opposed to someone else will certainly help him."
One way to help Bortenschlager would be to use the running game to set up manageable third downs. The Terps did it effectively on just one drive Sept. 23, with UCF up, 7-3, in the second quarter.
Harrison had runs of 14 and 9 yards and junior Ty Johnson had runs of 13 and 5 yards to set up the Terps deep in Knights territory, but they settled for a field goal attempt that Henry Darmstadter missed. Harrison and Johnson combined for 73 yards on 21 carries for the game.
Putting Bortenschlager in fewer obvious passing situations is easier said than done: Minnesota has given up a total of 24 points during its 3-0 start and is fifth in the country in total defense at 239 yards allowed per game. The Gophers are No. 1 in the country in rush defense, allowing 59 yards per contest.
"No. 1, when you watch film, they play really hard," Durkin said. "They're a great effort group, and that to me is the highest compliment you can give a team when you watch them. They have good personnel. They play fast. They're sound in what they do. You can tell they're well-coached. There are not a lot of mistakes on the film. They know what they're doing, they do it well and they play hard."
A better defensive performance also is needed for the Terps. UCF had 428 yards of total offense, including 250 on the ground. Maryland's stated goal before the game was to make UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton beat them from the pocket, but he ran for 94 yards. All 38 of the Knights' points came after Hill's injury, though seven of those came off an interception returned for a touchdown.
"Coach Durkin preaches it all the time: When adversity strikes, you have to be able to move forward and push ahead," junior defensive lineman Brett Kulka said. "It's something we did Week 1 when Piggy went down, and we really didn't do that well this past week. The adversity hit, and we just kind of folded a little bit. Moving forward, we just have to know that we've got to keep pressing ahead. Injuries are going to happen, and the next man will come up and he'll be prepared and ready to go."
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