COLUMBUS, Ohio — As Maryland sophomore quarterback Max Bortenschlager lay on the turf, face down and his legs flailing after taking a high hit from Ohio State defensive back Damon Arnette, Terrapins Coach DJ Durkin screamed at an official for a flag. It didn’t come. It was a volcanic moment in a 62-14 loss to the 10th-ranked Buckeyes, and while Arnette was eventually ejected for a targeting call after an official review, Bortenschlager gingerly walked off the field and didn’t return.
“I’m not really certain anymore what we’re trying to do. I don’t know. I guess everyone talks about player safety. I’ve got a quarterback sliding in a game, gets hit in the head and they don’t flag it. I’m at a loss,” said a visibly upset Durkin, who didn’t provide an update on Bortenschlager’s status after the game.
It was difficult to fathom that this season could be any more cruel to Maryland’s quarterbacks before that moment. Just three games into the season, the Terrapins (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) lost starters Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill to season-ending knee injuries. Then Saturday, in the third quarter of its fifth game, they were forced to turn to fourth-stringer Caleb Henderson.
The potential loss of Bortenschlager could add a new layer of devastation as Maryland’s season reaches the midway point, but it wouldn’t have mattered who played under center Saturday. Maryland’s offense was rendered ineffective from the outset and finished with an equal number of total yards as the Terps managed penalty yards (66). Ohio State’s defense hadn’t held a Big Ten opponent to that few yards of total offense since 1960 against Indiana.
Bortenschlager completed just 3 of 12 passes for 16 yards and was strip-sacked three times, losing two fumbles.
That left Maryland’s defense, which was already missing starting linebacker Shane Cockerille for undisclosed disciplinary reasons and safety Antwaine Richardson to injury, gassed and exposed. Ohio State (5-1, 3-0) amassed 584 yards, with senior quarterback J.T. Barrett completing 20 of 31 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns.
“When the offense needed to pick up the defense, they didn’t. And when the defense needed to pick up the offense, they didn’t. We were out of sync,” Durkin said. “They out-coached us, outplayed us.”
Ohio State left many openings early for Maryland to prove it belonged on the same field. In the first half alone, the Buckeyes gave up a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, bungled an extra-point attempt, lost a fumble in their own territory, had a field goal blocked, and watched one of their top defensive backs get ejected for targeting. On any other night, those blunders would have been a recipe for disaster.
Yet none of it mattered, because all the Terrapins proved was the distance they still must go to merely compete with the Big Ten’s best. A year after losing by 59 points to Ohio State in College Park, Maryland arrived here with an opportunity to close the gap. The Terrapins instead left with another demoralizing loss largely because they put forth their worst offensive performance of the season.
The Terrapins’ only first-half score came on the 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by junior Ty Johnson. By that point, Maryland was down just 14-7. The Terrapins trailed 20-7 and had a chance to cut into the deficit again after blocking a 48-yard field goal later in the first quarter.
That negated a horrid start for Maryland’s offense just a week after Bortenschlager had replaced Pigrome and Hill for his first start of the season in an emotional 31-24 win over Minnesota. But the Buckeyes’ defense was simply on another level.
“We left a lot of plays out there on the field,” senior safety Josh Woods said.
Bortenschlager was strip-sacked on Maryland’s first drive, and the fumble was returned for a 20-yard touchdown by linebacker Jerome Baker. Maryland either punted or turned the ball over on downs on eight of its next nine possessions. It finished with just six first downs, went 1 for 15 on third downs and averaged 1.2 yards per pass.
Late in the third quarter, Bortenschlager was strip-sacked again by Ohio State freshman defensive lineman Chase Young, a former DeMatha star who helped set up a three-yard rushing touchdown by J.K. Dobbins. At that point, Barrett had already been replaced by Ohio State backup quarterback Dwayne Haskins, a former Maryland commit whose flip to the Buckeyes had opened the door for Maryland to recruit Bortenschlager in late 2015.
Just three plays after Dobbins’s touchdown, Bortenschlager was injured after Arnette nailed him in the helmet as the sophomore quarterback was going to the ground. While Pigrome and Hill had both been injured on legal hits while scrambling, that Bortenschlager went out on an illegal shot infuriated Durkin, who now has just one healthy scholarship quarterback on the roster in Henderson.
Johnson, who was held to 57 yards rushing, said he planned to check on Bortenschlager on Sunday. He almost seemed in disbelief that he was answering yet another question about another quarterback injury after the game, but he was still in the dark as he prepared to board the bus after the loss.
“I wouldn’t say he’s down. We’ll just have to wait and see,” Johnson said of Bortenschlager. “He was just playing his heart out and trying to get extra yards. Things happen.”