Terps Football: 5 Thoughts Before Maryland/Ohio State
Opponent: #10 Ohio State Buckeyes (4-1, 2-0 Big Ten Conference)
Location: Ohio Stadium (104,944)
Date: Saturday, September 7, 2017
Time: 4:00 PM ET
TV/Radio Broadcasts: FOX, Maryland Sports Radio Network
Series Record: 2-0 Ohio State
The Maryland Terrapins are riding high this week, as they returned to College Park after winning their first Big Ten Conference game in Minneapolis against the Golden Gophers. Despite being forced to start their fourth-string quarterback due to injuries, the team rallied to a 31-24 victory. While all conference road games are difficult in the Big Ten, it doesn’t get much tougher than Ohio Stadium. Just as was the case when the Terrapins traveled to Columbus in 2015, there will be a full Homecoming crowd on hand in The Shoe.
1. Mad Max
Many Maryland fans weren’t sure what to expect from the team’s fourth-string quarterback when he took the field against Minnesota. His performance against UCF in relief of Kasim Hill was rather unimpressive, as was his start against Nebraska last season. With a week to prepare for the Golden Gophers, offensive coordinator Walt Bell crafted a gameplan around Bortenschlager that worked to perfection. He wasn’t asked to do too much, but he delivered when he was called upon. He completed 18 of his 28 pass attempts for 154 yards, and threw for 2 touchdowns. He never turned the ball over, and rushed for a touchdown as well. While he isn’t the type of player who can beat defenses with his arm, he has enough arm talent to manage his offense to a win.
2. Run, Run, Run the Ball
The primary reason why Bortenschlager was able to manage his offense to a victory over Minnesota was the success of Maryland’s rushing attack. Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison III combined for 208 yards and 3 touchdowns on the afternoon. They were able to do all of this against what was the best run defense in the country. The offensive line was able to consistently open holes for the two talented runners, and they were able to make their own space even when there didn’t look to be any. Johnson’s 34-yard touchdown run late in the 4th quarter sealed the victory for the Terrapins.
Maryland has run for over 250 yards in all but one of their games so far this season, the one exception being last week’s loss to UCF. Despite that outlier, the team currently ranks as the #24 rushing offense in the country, and the 3rd-best in the Big Ten Conference. They’ll need to continue that trend for the remainder of the season in order to take pressure off of their young fourth-string quarterback.
3. Turnover Margin
One of the most important things to note about the Terrapins’ win over Minnesota was the turnover margin. As mentioned above, Bortenschlager and the offense didn’t turn the ball over. However, Maryland’s defense was able to come up with two crucial interceptions. JC Jackson picked off his second pass of the season, and Josh Woods caught a tipped pass for his first takeaway of the year. As a team, the Terrapins boast a +3 turnover margin in 2017, which is tied for the 29th-best mark in the country, and the 4th-best in the Big Ten Conference.
4. Get Tricky With It
One of the most talked about items in the week leading up to Maryland’s matchup with Minnesota was how much “Wild Crab” Bell would dial up as part of his gameplan. The team had run one such play against UCF, which was ultimately unsuccessful. As it turns out, it wasn’t used at all against the Golden Gophers. However, against a tough Ohio State defense, it’ll be interesting to see if Bell dips into his bag of tricks a bit in order to keep the Buckeyes from getting too comfortable.
Last week, Chris Stoner wrote about the expectations for the program if Hill were to miss a significant amount of time. After a road victory in the team’s first conference game, have those expectations changed? It looks like Bortenschlager has enough arm talent to manage this team to a victory as long as the running game is able to have success. He takes care of the ball well, and can make enough throws to the team’s talented crew of receivers. The defense has been excellent, especially in the red zone. With three fairly winnable games remaining on the schedule against Northwestern, Indiana, and Rutgers, getting to six wins isn’t too far out of the realm of possibility.