Maryland QB Bortenschlager ‘getting better each week’
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Operating as a pocket passer in a read-option offense, former third-stringer Max Bortenschlager has enjoyed a surprisingly effective stint as Maryland’s quarterback.
Forced into action after the Terrapins’ top two quarterbacks sustained season-ending knee injuries, Bortenschlager has thrown nine touchdown passes and only four interceptions while keeping Maryland (4-4, 2-3 Big Ten) in the hunt for a second consecutive bowl bid.
“There’s tangible evidence of him improving and getting better each week,” coach DJ Durkin said Tuesday. “I think he’s really settled in and become comfortable at the position. Probably the most important thing is that his teammates recognize that, too.”
Bortenschlager, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, was thrust into action on Sept. 23 against Central Florida after Kasim Hill was forced out in the first half. Bortenschlager was intercepted twice in a 38-10 defeat , but he steadied himself the following week in an upset win at Minnesota and last Saturday led Maryland past Indiana 42-39 .
After starting the year buried on the bench, Bortenschlager is now guiding Durkin’s no-huddle attack with confidence and poise.
“It’s been an awesome experience,” Bortenschlager said. “It’s taken a lot of work, but nothing I haven’t done before, when I was in high school and I was the guy. I’m spending a lot more time on football now, but the preparation has been the same throughout the process.”
The quarterback’s personality, more than his touch, most impresses offensive coordinator Walt Bell.
“Whether he was the third-string guy or competing for the job or the starter, one of the things that make Max special is he is the same guy every day,” Bell said. “I think the kids respect that more than anything else.”
Bortenschlager takes that even-keel quality to the field, as well. After he threw an interception on Maryland’s opening possession against Indiana — a turnover that helped the Hoosiers go up 14-0 — he rebounded to finish 10 for 16 for 171 yards and two touchdowns.
“Mistakes really don’t rattle him,” Bell said. “He can have a bad possession. He can miss something that he’s hit in practice a million times, but he can rally back.”
Bortenschlager’s strength is his right arm, not his legs, which isn’t exactly a perfect fit in an offensive scheme designed for a running quarterback. That doesn’t mean he won’t take off if the opportunity presents itself.
“I feel like I can do it when I have to,” he said. “I don’t think the offense really keys on me, so sometimes I can get a quick eight yards, maybe.”
Pigrome and Hill are far more fleet of foot, but Bortenschlager has netted 157 yards on the ground and run for two touchdowns.
Maryland needs to win two of its final four games, beginning Saturday at Rutgers (3-5, 2-3) to qualify for a bowl bid. If Bortenschlager delivers, perhaps his performance this year will help him maintain the job next season.
“I’m just trying to make the most of my opportunity, and we’ll take it from there,” he said.
If he’s back in the bench in 2018, it probably won’t be evident by his demeanor.
“He shows consistency and maturity in everything that he does, and not just football,” Bell said. “How he lives his life, how he studies, how he goes to school. He’s a special kid, and if we can just continue to play better around him, I think that will make him look better as well.”