MINNEAPOLIS — Max Bortenschlager is a third-stringer no longer. With Maryland’s top two quarterbacks out for the season, Bortenschlager is now the man for the Terrapins.
He will get no arguments from Minnesota.
Bortenschlager threw for 154 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score and Ty Johnson’s 34-yard touchdown run with 1:10 to play lifted Maryland to a 31-24 victory over Minnesota on Saturday.
“That’s Max every day,” Maryland coach D.J. Durkin said. “The difference was he had a team around him that was playing with a resolve, a determination of just a group of guys that decided to come together and do something special.”
Bortenschlager completed 18 of 28 passes with no interceptions and no sacks for the Terrapins (3-1). Johnson rushed for 130 yards, Lorenzo Harrison III added 75 yards and Maryland racked up 262 yards on the ground against a Minnesota defense that was ranked No. 1 in the country against the run.
Conor Rhoda was 13 for 26 for 229 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions for previously unbeaten Minnesota (3-1). Tyler Johnson had three catches for 69 yards, but the Golden Gophers rushed for just 80 yards.
“It exposed a lot of weaknesses,” Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said. “That’s what we can get to work on in practice this week to fix.”
D.J. Moore caught eight passes for 90 yards and a touchdown for Maryland.
Bortenschlager looked overwhelmed at times last week when he was thrust into surprise duty following Hill’s injury. Given a week to practice as the starter, he was much more comfortable.
“It was huge knowing that I was the guy,” Bortenschlager said. “Going through the week, everyone around the facility just instilled a bunch of confidence in me. They always told me they had my back.”
He squeezed a throw in between two defenders on fourth-and-11 from the Gophers 31 in the first quarter. D.J. Turner made a leaping catch for a 22-yard gain, setting up Bortenschlager’s 7-yard draw for a touchdown to get Maryland on the board.
He came up big again in the fourth quarter on third-and-goal from the 4, rolling to his right and hitting a wide-open Jake Funk in the flat for a 24-17 lead. It was the first time an opponent has scored against Minnesota’s defense in the second half this season.
The Gophers tied the game midway through the fourth quarter when Shannon Brooks scored with four minutes to play, but Bortenschlager gave Maryland its ninth third-down conversion of the game at the Minnesota 39 and Ty Johnson burst through the line and went untouched for the touchdown to seal the victory.
Maryland: What a difference a week makes for Bortenschlager. The sophomore was calm and composed and was able to use his legs just enough — four carries for 18 yards — to keep Minnesota’s defense honest. Poised play like that will go a long way for the Terrapins.
Minnesota: The defense was giving up just 59 yards rushing per game, but couldn’t get their hands on Maryland’s backs. Ty Johnson averaged 7.7 yards per carry and Harrison was at a healthy 4.4. Losing defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr. to a hamstring injury in the first half did not help, but this was a game the Gophers really needed.
The Gophers have been banged-up all season long, particularly on the offensive line and in the secondary. They lost Winfield in the first half and were also missing receiver Demetrius Douglas, who Fleck said may miss the rest of the season, and center Jared Weyler as well. Starting safety Duke McGhee also did not play for disciplinary reasons.
“If you don’t do the right things, you’re not going to play,” Fleck said. “Hopefully he’ll be back here soon and I’ll make that call as we continue to move forward.”
Durkin rolled the dice all afternoon. He called a fake field goal on the first possession of the game, but Ryan Brand was tackled at the 1-yard line. And at the end of the half, Durkin called a draw to Johnson on first-and-10 from the 50 with eight seconds to play. The Gophers were backed up expecting a heave into the end zone and Johnson dashed for 17 yards before taking a knee with two seconds to play.
Henry Darmstadter booted a 51-yard field as time expired to give the Terps a lift going into the locker room.
Maryland: Things don’t get any easier for the Terrapins next week. A road trip to Ohio State awaits.
Minnesota: The Gophers go on the road for the first time in Big Ten play, visiting improving Purdue.