Terps run­ning out of ideas

With a fifth-string QB, Maryland is no match for Michi­gan.

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY RO­MAN STUBBS ro­man.stubbs@wash­post.com

Walt Bell does not sleep much on Fri­day nights be­fore Maryland foot­ball games, if at all. The Ter­rap­ins’ of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor has made a habit of stay­ing up late at the team ho­tel with his call sheet, scour­ing his game plan and think­ing of ideas for un­ex­pected sce­nar­ios.

“More than anything else, just ex­otic sit­u­a­tions,” Bell said this past week.

By any stan­dard, Bell faced the most ex­otic of sit­u­a­tions Satur­day in a 35-10 loss to vis­it­ing Michi­gan. He was forced to build his game plan around red­shirt sopho­more Ryan Brand, a walk-on who started the sea­son as the fifth-string quar­ter­back.

This is Maryland foot­ball, so the fact that Brand be­came the fourth player to start un­der cen­ter this sea­son al­most seemed nor­mal. He re­placed sopho­more Max Borten­schlager, the for­mer third-stringer who was in­jured last week in a loss to Rut­gers.

Still, ex­pe­ri­ence with quar­ter­back in­juries was lit­tle help for Bell and the Ter­rap­ins (4-6, 2-5 Big Ten), who mus­tered most of their 340 yards af­ter fall­ing be­hind 28-0 in the first half. Michi­gan en­tered the day ranked sec­ond in ma­jor col­lege foot­ball in to­tal de­fense.

“We’re a team still try­ing to find our­selves. Let’s just call it like it is. No dis­re­spect to [Brand], but I mean, we started a fifth-string quar­ter­back to­day. Played one of the best de­fenses in the coun­try,” Maryland Coach DJ Durkin said. “So, yeah, there was a lit­tle [ten­ta­tive­ness] . . . like, ‘Can we re­ally do this? Is this ac­tu­ally go­ing to work? Is this go­ing to hap­pen?’ We fi­nally gained some of that [in the sec­ond half ], and we just played. But you can’t do it that way. You can’t let it af­fect your whole game.”

Brand, a Detroit na­tive who be­gan his col­lege ca­reer at Air Force and spent last sea­son at a ju­nior col­lege, fin­ished 16 of 35 for 136 yards in his first ca­reer start and was forced into a string of mis­cues in the first half. The Ter­rap­ins’ drive chart over the first 30 min­utes was ugly: Maryland punted on its first three pos­ses­sions and tried a fake punt on its fourth drive from its 30-yard line.

That play failed mis­er­ably, and on the next play, Michi­gan quar­ter­back Bran­don Peters hit tight end Zach Gen­try on a 33-yard touch­down pass to make it 21-0 early in the sec­ond quar­ter. On the en­su­ing pos­ses­sion, Maryland’s punt was blocked, which set up a three-yard touch­down pass from Peters to tight end Sean McKeon.

“We have a plan to win. We aim to do that. We know [spe­cial teams] is how you win a game on our end, so if the other team does it, it’s a hur­dle to over­come,” se­nior safety Josh Woods said.

Peters, the third Michi­gan quar­ter­back to start this sea­son — Maryland is the only other Power Five pro­gram to start that many — com­pleted only nine of 18 passes for 145 yards, but that was more than enough even though the Wolver­ines gained just 94 yards in the sec­ond half.

Satur­day al­most seemed like a road game in their own sta­dium for the Ter­rap­ins; a large per­cent­age of the an­nounced crowd of 44,325, a sea­son high, were decked out in maize and blue. Maryland’s stu­dent sec­tion was again empty by half­time, and the Michi­gan faith­ful roared each time the Wolver­ines (8-2, 5-2) made a big play in the bit­ter cold.

It was a fa­mil­iar scene for Maryland against a Big Ten blue blood over the first two sea­sons un­der Durkin. In its past six games against con­fer­ence op­po­nents ranked by the As­so­ci­ated Press, Maryland has lost by an av­er­age of 38 points and was outscored by a com­bined 191-13 in the first half of those games. (Michi­gan is No. 21 in the AP poll but is not in this week’s Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off rank­ings.)

Maryland’s most promis­ing drive of the first half fea­tured an im­pres­sive 36-yard run by sopho­more Lorenzo Har­ri­son (81 yards rush­ing) and a lit­tle in­ge­nu­ity by Bell, who called a flea-flicker re­verse that ended with a 21-yard pass from wide re­ceiver DJ Moore to Brand and put Maryland in the red zone.

But the march ended when Brand threw an in­ter­cep­tion in the end zone to Wolver­ines cor­ner­back David Long, who re­turned it 80 yards deep into Maryland ter­ri­tory late in the first half.

“Ob­vi­ously I want some plays back. We want some plays back,” said Brand, who had just 24 yards pass­ing in the first half and fin­ished with one touch­down pass and two in­ter­cep­tions.

The most de­press­ing se­quence of the af­ter­noon came in the third quar­ter, when mem­bers of the march­ing band were es­sen­tially the only peo­ple in the stu­dent sec­tion. Brand led an 85-yard drive to the Michi­gan 2-yard line, but it stalled when his third-down pass in­tended for Moore fell in­com­plete.

In­stead of go­ing for it with his team trail­ing 28-0, Durkin opted to send in the field goal unit. Af­ter Henry Darm­stadter’s 20-yard kick sailed through the up­rights to get Maryland on the board, fire­works shot into the sky and the pro-Michi­gan crowd cheered the goal-line stand.

JOHN MC­DON­NELL/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Maryland’s Ryan Brand takes a hard hit from Michi­gan line­backer Josh Uche. In his first start, Brand fin­ished 16 of 35 for 136 yards and a touch­down with two in­ter­cep­tions.

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