Badgers football: Maryland working to stay afloat with 3rd-string quarterback
In most cases, losing two quarterbacks to season-ending injuries before October is a death sentence for college football teams.
It’s been an up-and-down ride, but Maryland’s offense has managed to remain relatively productive despite the loss of Tyrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill.
Third-string quarterback Max Bortenschlager owns a 1-2 record in three games as the Terrapins’ starter, completing 48.7 percent of his passes for 425 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions during that time.
“When Max has been sharp and making the right decisions, he’s been very effective and really helped our team,” Maryland coach D.J. Durkin said. “And that’s what our focus is with him, is just making the right decision and seeing what’s there, communicating well with the rest of the offense and keeping us on track.”
Bortenschlager and the 3-3 Terrapins will try to stay on the right track when they visit Camp Randall Stadium to play the fifth-ranked University of Wisconsin on Saturday.
Maryland starting quarterback Tyrell Pigrome tore his anterior cruciate ligament in a big season-opening victory at Texas, and true freshman Kasim Hill also tore his ACL in the first quarter against UCF on Sept. 23.
Bortenschlager finished a 38-10 loss to UCF by completing 15-of-26 passes for 132 yards with one touchdowns and two interceptions, but his first start the next week couldn’t have gone much better.
He completed 18-of-28 passes for 154 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in a win at Minnesota.
Bortenschlager went on to throw for just 16 yards in a blowout loss to Ohio State before tossing three touchdowns in a 37-21 loss to Northwestern last week.
“We’ve obviously had some ups and downs and lost a few guys along the way,” Durkin said. “I think it’s been a great test for our guys. They’ve responded at times, and at times we haven’t. That’s what we’re working through right now — learning how to respond to things that are out of your control.”
Bortenschlager’s also capable of doing damage with his legs, whether it’s on a read-option or keeping plays alive when the pocket starts collapsing.
It also helps that Maryland has explosive skill-positon players surrounding Bortenschlager, including wide receiver DJ Moore, who leads the Big Ten in catches (44), receiving yards (624) and receiving touchdowns (7).
UW coach Paul Chryst said that Maryland continued to run its entire offense when Bortenschlager took over, and he’s been impressed with the sophomore on film.
“You’ve got to be disciplined,” Chryst said. “He makes a lot of plays when it’s not there. I think he certainly has weapons around him. I’m impressed with the skill they’ve got around him, and obviously the line’s giving them a chance. But I think he can hurt you throwing, he can hurt you running and when things break down he can hurt you.”
Bortenschlager will face a difficult test against the Badgers, who rank fifth nationally in scoring defense and sixth in total defense. An upset Saturday could be a season-making victory that carries the Terrapins towards bowl eligibility. The expected loss would mark their third straight with three ranked teams remaining on the schedule.
Durkin said Maryland attempted to make its host of early-season injuries — at quarterback and otherwise — an experience that would make its team stronger, a task the Terrapins are still working to maintain.
“It was definitely how we initially approached it, and we were able to do that,” Durkin said. “There have been some guys here lately where, we need more of that and we need more resolve about us. But again, I think these are all lessons. For a team that hasn’t experienced some of these things before, that’s what we’re learning.”
Taylor, Edwards named mid-season All-Americans
University of Wisconsin right tackle David Edwards and running back Jonathan Taylor earned spots on the Associated Press’ mid-season All-American team.
Edwards was a first-team selection at tackle, while Taylor received second-team honors behind Stanford’s Bryce Love and Penn State’s Saquon Barkley.
Lotti added to watch list
Badgers punter Anthony Lotti was added to the Ray Guy Award watch list Tuesday.
The sophomore has averaged 39.59 yards per punt this season, up from his 2016 average of 37.47.