COLLEGE PARK — In what was supposed to be a final tune-up before conference play next weekend and an opportune chance for freshman quarterback Kasim Hill to bolster confidence suddenly took a nosedive after a stark series of events.
It wasn’t the smoothest of starts for the top-two offenses in the nation, being scoreless through the opening 10 minutes of play, but Maryland — behind Hill — had driven down to the Central Florida 21-yard-line with an opportunity to make an early statement. That’s when, on 3rd-and-13, Hill slipped outside near the right sideline to evade the blitz, trying to the drive alive with his legs.
But in that moment, with no blockers near, it was already too late, as three UCF defenders sandwiched the freshman quarterback awkwardly, who then fell to the turf clutching his right leg. Maryland managed a field goal on that drive, but after that, the chance to go full blast into the gauntlet of schedule crumbled with breakdowns in the secondary and a sputtering offense.
UCF scored 21 unanswered points after Hill had to be helped off the field by a pair of trainers as Maryland suffered a deflating 38-10 loss with Big Ten play right around corner.
The status of Hill, who is fresh off a spectacular showing in first career start in the 63-17 rout of Towson two weeks ago, is yet to be announced.
“It’s just a part of the game. There are plenty of offense and guys out there who run. It’s part of the game and it’s something we talk about and have educated him on how to avoid this. But at the end of the day, he’s a competitor,” Maryland coach D.J. Durkin said. “[UCF was] able to load up the box and that’s why we talk so much about being two-dimensional. … Credit to Central Florida. They’re a good ball club. They made the plays to win the game.
“Our guys, as a team, we did not handle adversity well. So far this year, in the the three games we’ve played, we’ve had some adversity we have handled, and now we have some that we didn’t. It certainly showed.”
After reeling off an inspiring win against nationally-ranked Texas on the road and putting up historical offensive numbers against Towson two Saturday’s ago (534 yards, 63 points), Maryland entered this weekend just three spots out of the Associated Press Top 25.
The offensive output two weeks ago was cut by more than half on Saturday, as Maryland stammered for 197 total yards on 65 plays. UCF, meanwhile, posted 428 yards of total offense, with dual-threat quarterback McKenzie Milton accounting for 272 total yards (178 passing, 94 rushing) and a touchdown.
Up until the two-minute mark of the third quarter, Maryland failed to convert its first eight third down conversions. They finished 2-for-13 in that department.
“[UCF] did their studying. They watched their film,” said Maryland running back Ty Johnson, who only managed 25 yards on 11 carries on Saturday. “They knew what to expect and they took advantage of it.
“In Texas, when we faced adversity, we handled it well. Today, when we faced adversity, we didn’t handle it too well. It’s just something we need to work on.”
After kicker Henry Darmstadter converted the game’s first points on a 34-yard field goal late in the first quarter, UCF scored on three of its next four drives to mount a 21-3 lead minutes into the third quarter. The first touchdown was a product of Maryland punting deep in its own territory, as nine plays and 55 yards later, Taj McGowan punched in a goal line touchdown to give the Knights a lead wouldn’t lose.
Ten minutes later, McGowan capped a seven-play, 80-yard drive with a three-yard run that made it 14-3 and five minutes into the third quarter, a 55-yard Milton run set-up a six-yard pass to tight end Jordan Akins pushed the UCF lead to 21-3.
Maryland strung together its only productive drive of the afternoon when sophomore quarterback Max Bortenschlager led an 82-yard scoring march that was capped by a 20-yard pass-and-catch to D.J. Moore (83 yards on eight receptions). The touchdown was Moore’s 13th of his career, which pushed into a tie for fifth all-time with Darrius Heyward-Bey.
Maryland then shaved the deficit to 21-10, but UCF piled on 17 more points that put the game well out of reach.
Even still, Maryland had many opportunities to keep drives afloat with more-than-manageable third down attempts. Of the 13 third downs they faced, seven were less than six yards away from moving the chains. The only two they converted was on a 3rd-and-six with two minutes left in the third quarter and the other came from a UCF penalty on 3rd-and-long.
And even when UCF made it 24-10 on a 20-yard field goal — a defensive stand by the Terps that produced three straight stuffs when UCF eyed a 1st-and-goal from the six-yard line — they had a chance to draw within one possession. But that, like so many other drives, ended with a punt. Lorenzo Harrison paced the Terps’ usually-productive run game with 48 yards on 10 carries. Outside of Harrison, Maryland had minus-6 rushing yards in 27 attempts.
Bortenschlager finished with 132 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions on 15-for-26 passing.
Maryland will look to get back on track at Minnesota next Saturday.
“It’s deflating, but it’s not as deflating as it can be,” said Terrapins linebacker Jermaine Carter, who contributed six total tackles on Saturday. “We still have all of our goals in front of us. Like I said, we start Big Ten play this week and we’re 0-0 in [the] Big Ten. We start clean next week.”
UMd. — Henry Darmstadter 34-yard field goal, 3:58 [3-0]
UCF — Taj McGowan 1-yard run (Wright kick), 13:42 [7-3]
UCF — Taj McGowan 3-yard run (Wright kick), 3:49 [14-3]
UCF — Jordan Akins 6-yard pass from McKenzie Milton (Wright kick), 10:17 [21-3]
UMd. — D.J. Moore 20-yard pass from Max Bortenschlager (Darmstadter kick), 2:04 [21-10]
UCF — Matthew Wright 20-yard field goal, 12:34 [24-10]
UCF — Adrian Killins 15-yard run (Wright kick), 7:29 [31-10]
UCF — Mike Hughes 57-yard interception return (Wright kick), 5:11 [38-10]