For the first time in 2017, Maryland football has a losing record. The Terps fell to No. 5 Wisconsin on Saturday, 38-13, dropping their record to 3-4 this season.
Maryland played the undefeated Badgers close for much of the afternoon, but couldn’t capitalize on enough opportunities to hang for a full game. Wisconsin stretched a four-point lead to 25 in a span of four possessions, and the Terps couldn’t get back in it, even with a 10-0 run in the second half.
This was Maryland’s most balanced offensive performance since beating Minnesota on Sept. 30, although it still wasn’t a great day overall. The Terps ran for 143 yards—more than they had in the last two games combined—and Max Bortenschlager threw for 125 yards (on 13-of-30 passing) with a touchdown and an interception. It was a relatively quiet day for star wideout D.J. Moore, who brought in three receptions for 44 yards.
On the other side of the ball, there was simply no answer for Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor. The freshman phenom bulldozed his way to 126 rushing yards on 22 carries, surpassing 1,000 yards for the season in the first quarter. Sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook was steady with a consistently clean pocket, throwing for 225 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Maryland’s first drive started with promise, but then a deflected Bortenschlager throw floated into the hands of Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Edwards, who ran it back 54 yards for a touchdown. It was the Terps’ second pick-six to start a game this season, with the other coming in the opener against Texas.
But the Terps’ defense countered with takeaways on Wisconsin’s first two possessions. Josh Woods picked off Hornibrook on the opening drive, and after Maryland was forced to punt, Wisconsin turned it over again, as Taylor coughed it up and lost the ball at the Badgers’ 5-yard line. That led to a Maryland field goal, making it 7-3 just after the change of quarters.
Then Wisconsin turned on the jets. A 70-yard drive led to an easy three-yard run for Taylor, and the Badgers followed with an 85-yard march down the field to extend the lead. Hornibrook’s pass to a wide-open Zander Neuville made it 21-3, and it almost got worse. Jake Funk fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Badgers took over on Maryland’s 24 with a chance to add to the lead, but a missed field goal kept the margin at 18 points entering the half.
On the other side of the intermission, Wisconsin went 71 yards down the field to start the second half, and Hornibrook’s 18-yard strike to A.J. Taylor brought the score to 28-3. But Maryland inched its way closer in the third quarter with a pair of run-heavy possessions. Bortenschlager’s 10-yard touchdown to Taivon Jacobs capped off a 73-yard drive, then a 57-yard march resulted in a 45-yard Henry Darmstadter field goal. Through three frames, it was 28-13.
Wisconsin answered with a six-minute touchdown drive, bringing the lead back up to 22. A Badgers field goal in the final minute brought the score final, and Wisconsin covered the spread by half a point.
Maryland will return to College Park in a week to host Indiana for Homecoming.
Three things to know
1. The running backs were a factor again. Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison combined for 147 rushing yards, and they also had their best day as receivers this year. Maryland completed just five passes to running backs in the first six games, but almost matched that total in Madison. Harrison had four catches for 21 yards, while a Johnson reception was called back for pass interference.
2. But the pass rush is still a problem. For the fourth time in five games, Maryland failed to record a sack. Even when the Terps brought pressure, Wisconsin had time to throw. It didn’t help that nose tackle Kingsley Opara left with an injury in the third quarter and didn’t return.
3. So are third downs. Maryland converted just 29 percent of its third downs in the first half of the season, and that didn’t improve much on Saturday. The Terps went 1-for-7 in the first half and 5-for-14 overall. Wisconsin, meanwhile, was 8-of-13 on third down, which allowed the Badgers to sustain several long scoring drives.