Maryland football started its 2017 Big Ten season Saturday with a 31-24 road win over Minnesota. The Terps have now won three games with three different starting quarterbacks this year.
Ty Johnson broke free for a 34-yard touchdown run with 1:10 to play, and JC Jackson’s interception 29 seconds later sealed the deal. This game was back-and-forth all afternoon, with neither team leading by more than seven points. One week after the entire team faded against UCF in a 28-point loss, Maryland bounced back.
Max Bortenschlager, making his second career start with Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill out for the season, finished the afternoon 18-of-28 for 154 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He didn’t turn it over or get sacked. That opened the door for Maryland’s rushing attack, which gashed Minnesota for 262 yards on 47 carries. It also helped to have D.J. Moore finish with 118 scrimmage yards on eight receptions and a 24-yard run.
The Terps started things off by grinding out a 13-play, 64-yard drive and giving themselves a scoring chance. But on third-and-goal, Maryland was hit with a delay of game penalty after Minnesota took its time substituting. The Terps couldn’t convert the subsequent play, and Ryan Brand came up one yard short on a fake field goal.
But the defense responded, forcing a three-and-out. Maryland started its next drive in Minnesota territory, and a 22-yard completion to DJ Turner on fourth-and-10 set up Bortenschlager’s seven-yard touchdown run. Minnesota equalized on the next drive, knotting the score at 7-7 early in the second quarter.
With Minnesota in the red zone on its next possession, a batted ball was pulled down by Josh Woods for his first career interception. Maryland followed with an 11-play, 92-yard drive that culminated in Bortenschlager’s 27-yard strike to Moore.
The teams traded field goals on their ensuing drives, with Maryland getting a chance after some impressive clock management. Henry Darmstadter nailed a 51-yarder as time expired in the half, putting the Terps up 17-10.
Minnesota missed a 42-yard attempt on its first drive of the second half, but the Gophers evened the score on Conor Rhoda’s seven-yarder to Brandon Lingen one possession later. The score held at 17-17 through the third quarter.
With 11:11 to play, Bortenschlager rolled out and found Jake Funk for a four-yard touchdown, giving Maryland a 24-17 lead. The Terps became the first team all season to score on Minnesota’s defense in the second half.
Seven minutes later, though, the Gophers struck back. Minnesota’s 80-yard drive was highlighted by Rhoda’s 35-yard pass to Eric Carter on second-and-26, and Shannon Brooks’ one-yard run was the equalizer with 3:54 to play.
But Maryland marched it right back down the field, with Johnson’s breakaway serving as the difference. The ensuing kickoff was muffed, leaving the Gophers on their own 4-yard line. They couldn’t make it far before Jackson’s pick sealed it.
Three things to know
1. Maryland’s offense flipped a switch. After finishing with just 197 yards against UCF, the Terps tallied 247 in the first half and 416 in Saturday’s game. The running game was their primary weapons, but Bortenschlager kept the offense multi-dimensional. The one-week difference was almost night and day, as was the result.
2. The Terps finally found third-down success. After converting just 7 of 30 third downs in the first three games, Maryland went 9-of-16 on Saturday. Bortenschlager’s throws to Turner and Funk were perhaps the most noteworthy, with a strike to Moore on the final drive setting up Johnson’s winning run.
3. It’s another road upset. Maryland was a 19-point underdog when it beat Texas in the season opener. Minnesota was favored by 12 points on Saturday, but the Terps had other plans. They’re now 2-0 on the road, and have a key conference win under their belts as they head to Ohio State in a week.