Lack­lus­ter of­fense negates big plays

Terps can’t get at­tack go­ing af­ter spe­cial teams come through with score, block

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - SPORTS - By Don Markus

Less than five min­utes into Satur­day’s game at No. 10 Ohio State, Mary­land was down 14-0. Vi­sions of last year’s 62-3 loss in Col­lege Park ma­te­ri­al­ized like a re­cur­ring night­mare for Terps fans.

Then Ty John­son re­turned a kick­off 100 yards for a touch­down to cut the deficit in half. De­fen­sive end Chan­dler Bur­kett blocked a field-goal at­tempt and later re­cov­ered a fum­ble in Ohio State ter­ri­tory.

But the Terps (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) never got any closer than 14-7 af­ter John­son’s kick­off re­turn, and never took ad­van­tage of Ohio State’s spe­cial teams break­downs and their own big plays.

It was sim­ple: the of­fense couldn’t budge the Buck­eyes off the line of scim­mage, and sopho­more quar­ter­back Max Borten­schlager strug­gled might­ily un­til get­ting knocked out of the game af­ter a late hit in the third quar­ter.

By half­time, the deficit was 41-7 in what be­came a 62-14 de­feat that seemed ev­ery bit as bad as the game a year ago.

The strug­gles of Borten­schlager to find his receivers soon enough and get the ball out quick enough, along with break­downs on the of­fen­sive line, led to yet an­other Mary­land melt­down against Ohio State (5-1, 3-0).

The Terps be­gan the game with an ill-con­ceived flea flicker from John­son to Borten­schlager, who was sacked be­fore any of his receivers could get open.

It con­tin­ued with de­fen­sive end Nick Bosa get­ting by left tackle Der­win Gray and caus­ing Borten­schlager to fum­ble be­fore he could throw, with the Buck­eyes scor­ing a touch­down af­ter the re­cov­ery.

De­spite Ohio State los­ing its best cover cor­ner, ju­nior Den­zel Ward, on a tar­get­ing call early in the game, Borten­schlager didn’t com­plete a pass un­til late in the first half.

The strug­gles for Borten­schlager ended when he was knocked out of the game late in the third quar­ter af­ter tak­ing a hit af­ter slid­ing to the ground — an el­bow right un­der his face­mask by fresh­man cor­ner­back Da­mon Ar­nette, who was also ejected for tar­get­ing.

Borten­schlager, who com­pleted 18 of 28 passes for 157 yards and two touch­downs while not get­ting sacked against Min­nesota, was 3-for-12 for 16 yards, fum­bled twice and was sacked four times.

He was re­placed by red­shirt ju­nior Caleb Henderson, who got his first ac­tion since trans­fer­ring last year from North Carolina.

The Terps, who rushed for 262 yards in last week’s 31-24 road win at Min­nesota, wound up with 50 yards. John­son, who had 130 yards on 18 car­ries against the Golden Go­phers, fin­ished with 57 yards (35 on one play) on 12 at­tempts. Best play: While John­son’s 100-yard re­turn, the first kick­off re­turn for a touch­down since Wil­liam Likely III’s in 2015, was clearly the most ex­cit­ing and pro­duc­tive play by the Terps, the most mean­ing­ful might have been fresh­man run­ning back Javon Leake’s 20-yard touch­down on a fourth down late in the game. It was Leake’s sec­ond touch­down with the other be­ing a 61-yard score against Tow­son. That Leake played Satur­day means the Terps can’t red­shirt him. Worst play: Where should we start? There were too many to count, but the play that prob­a­bly proved to be the most costly came af­ter Bur­kett’s fum­ble re­cov­ery with Mary­land trail­ing 20-7. Af­ter get­ting a first down at the Ohio State 36, the Terps were look­ing at fourth-and-3, Mary­land had DJ Moore iso­lated on a linebacker for what should have been a 5-yard gain. Borten­schlager didn’t throw it right away, the de­fense caught up with Moore and Borten­schlager was sacked. What’s next: The Terps be­gin a stretch of four games in which three should present a rea­son­able chance to win, start­ing with North­west­ern at Mary­land Sta­dium next Satur­day. The Wild­cats, who came into the sea­son as one of the fa­vorites in the Big Ten West, ab­sorbed a 31-7 loss at home to No. 4 Penn State on Satur­day. De­pend­ing on the ex­tent of Borten­schlager’s in­jury — he was el­bowed un­der the chin, but came off the field with­out help — the Terps could be look­ing at start­ing their fourth quar­ter­back in six games.

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