Lackluster offense negates big plays
Terps can’t get attack going after special teams come through with score, block
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.