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Four Observations On The Terps' Loss To Rutgers

November 4, 2017
Maryland lost at Rutgers, 31-24, Nov. 4 and fell to 4-5 on the season. Here are four observations on the loss:

1. Maryland is down to its fifth-string quarterback.

Terps sophomore quarterback Max Bortenschlager was injured early in the fourth quarter with the game tied at 24. Facing a third-and-3 from Maryland's own 32-yard line, Bortenschlager tried to run for the first down, but was met with a helmet-to-helmet collision and stopped short of the line to gain. 

Bortenschlager was replaced by sophomore walk-on Ryan Brand later in the fourth quarter. Brand began his career at Air Force in 2015, but transferred to the College of San Mateo (Calif.), a junior college where he played the 2016 season. He then walked on to the Terps this spring; his brother, freshman linebacker Bryce Brand, was a part of head coach DJ Durkin's 2017 recruiting class. 

Brand entered with 7:25 remaining in regulation and Maryland down, 31-24, and nearly led the Terps to overtime. He had Maryland on a 17-play march, but his throw to junior receiver DJ Moore in the back of the end zone on fourth down with less than a minute to go fell incomplete. Moore's jersey was tugged, but no call was made and the game effectively ended.

Brand completed eight passes for 68 yards on the drive, which included a fourth down conversion to Moore. A touchdown throw to senior receiver Taivon Jacobs was called back due to a holding call on left tackle Derwin Gray. It would've tied the game (PAT pending) with a little more than a minute to play.

Junior Caleb Henderson was listed as the Terps' backup quarterback on the depth chart ahead of the Rutgers game, but was bypassed by Brand during the game. Henderson suffered a right foot/ankle injury during the spring and the injury lingered into the beginning of the season.

Bortenschlager had an up and down game before the injury, completing 11 of 20 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown. Bortenschlager also threw a pick-six to Rutgers' Kiy Hester.

Bortenschlager's status is unclear.

2. Maryland was again unable to stop the run.

The Terps came into their game against Rutgers having given up 166.8 yards per game on the ground over their first eight contests, ranking towards the bottom of the Big Ten. Maryland did nothing to help those numbers, as it allowed 239 rushing yards on 46 carries to the Scarlet Knights. 

Rutgers running back Gus Edwards starred, running for 109 yards on 21 carries. The Scarlet Knights' offensive line beat the Terps' front seven at the point of attack throughout the game, an issue that got worse during the second half. Rutgers quarterback Giovanni Rescigno only completed eight passes, but didn't need to air it out.

Maryland has had issues stopping the run all year. The Terps gave up 250 rushing yards to Central Florida Sept. 23, 281 to Ohio State Oct. 7, 238 to Northwestern Oct. 14 and 215 to Wisconsin Oct. 21. 

Durkin and his staff made recruiting more size for the defensive front a priority for their 2017 class, but most of those freshmen haven't played other than Bryce Brand, who's gotten snaps at rush linebacker. The rest will likely redshirt and use the entire season to develop in the weight room and on the practice field. It'll take time for Durkin's staff to assemble a front seven fit for the Big Ten.

3. Maryland's offense had a good stretch, but couldn't close the game out.

Bortenschlager's interception late in the first half put Rutgers ahead, 17-7, but the Terps bounced back nicely with a nine-play, 76-yard touchdown drive before the end of the half. The Terps got the ball to begin the second half and put together an eight-play, 90-yard touchdown drive, with the big play being a 53-yard run by sophomore running back Jake Funk. That put Maryland up, 21-17.

But the Terps could never truly build on their lead. They got fortunate when Rutgers' Isaiah Wharton fumbled a punt, which DJ Turner recovered. That set up Maryland's offense at the Scarlet Knights' 41-yard line in the middle of the third quarter, but the Terps settled for a field goal after a wide open Jacobs dropped a touchdown pass. 

A Jacobs touchdown would've put the Terps up by 10. Instead, Rutgers tied the game on its next drive, Maryland went three-and-out, and Rutgers scored another touchdown to take the lead for good.

4. Maryland's bowl hopes were likely dashed.

The Terps, sitting at four wins entering play Nov. 4, needed to win at Rutgers and hope for an upset win against Michigan Nov. 11, at Michigan State Nov. 18 or against Penn State Nov. 25. Instead, they dropped to 4-5 and are staring at three games in which they'll be sizeable underdogs.

A bowl game offers players a reward for a solid season and gives seniors another month with their program. But it also gives a coaching staff 15 more practices to work with their players, which would be valuable for Durkin's staff. Maryland will lose much of its starting defense to graduation after this year and need to continue developing its younger defenders.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox