The most important play call for Maryland in Saturday's 31-24 win at Minnesota might have come early in the opening drive.

After junior running back Ty Johnson gained 7 yards to the Golden Gophers' 42 on first down, offensive coordinator Walt Bell called Max Bortenschlager's number. Faking a handoff, the sophomore quarterback tucked the ball under his arm and took off for 11 yards before sliding.


Not only did Bortenschlager come out of the play unscathed — something freshman Kasim Hill failed to do the week before in the first quarter against Central Florida, suffering a season-ending torn ACL — but it also changed the way Minnesota's defensive ends and the rest of the line attacked the Terps.

Maryland will be 31-point underdogs to No. 10 Buckeyes in Columbus

"They started out the game pretty aggressive, trying to not cheat but get an edge on our running backs," Bortenschlager said Tuesday. "That first run I had when I pulled it, [the defensive end] came in super hard. After that, he kind of stayed in his place. I think managing the guys in the box really helped the running backs."

Said Maryland coach DJ Durkin: "I'm sure that definitely had an effect on him. Really, with the way things are built offensively, is to take what we're able to get. I think us being able to be multiple and all that certainly helps us. Because I think when we can line up in different formations, and say, 'OK, what's there? What can we go get?' And if that includes a quarterback run, then Max has got to be able to do it."

Though the Terps came up empty at the end of that first long drive, with backup quarterback and holder Ryan Brand getting stopped inches short of the goal line on a fake field-goal attempt, Bortenschlager's ability to run early played a big part in second-year Maryland coach Durkin's first Big Ten road win.

Bortenschlager's 7-yard touchdown run on his team's next possession helped give the Terps a 7-0 lead. With the Golden Gophers playing a little more back on their heels, Maryland ran for 262 yards against what had been the nation's top rushing defense. Bortenschlager completed 18 of 28 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns.

Five things we learned from Maryland's 31-24 road win at Minnesota

"Max knew he needed to make big plays. He knew there were going to be some plays when he needed to tuck the ball and run," said Johnson, who finished with 18 carries for 130 yards, including the game-winning 34-yard touchdown with a little over a minute left.

"Those runs he made, they were effective. He got a first down. He got a touchdown. You got to take into account for any QB that's going to tuck the ball and run. That kind of made them rethink their defensive strategy a little bit."

It might have also changed the mindset of the 10th-ranked Buckeyes going into Saturday's game in Columbus.

Asked during the Big Ten coaches' teleconference Tuesday whether he thought Bortenschlager's ability to run affected the way Minnesota played defensively, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said: "It sure did, and I think he was extremely efficient. … I thought he did excellent."

Maryland opened Big Ten play with a road win at Minnesota.

Meyer expects Bortenschlager to be even better in his second straight start and third overall at Maryland.

"Now he's established himself as a starter, and especially with a talented guy, you see that development soar," Meyer said. "Our defensive staff's got a lot of respect for him."

While he appeared to finish a distant third in the preseason quarterback battle between Hill and sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome (who also is lost for the season with a torn ACL) — "They just played better than me," Bortenschlager said Tuesday — the 6-foot-3, 211-pound sophomore has earned the admiration of his teammates.

That was evident to Durkin when he saw the way the team regrouped after the 38-10 blowout defeat to UCF and rallied around Bortenschlager at practice last week going into Minnesota. Then he saw it again in the way the players celebrated with Bortenschlager in the visiting dressing room at TCF Stadium.

"It was neat to see that, those guys, everyone in the locker room after the game was obviously very excited about the win, but it was a group of guys grabbing and hugging Max," Durkin said Tuesday. "They were excited for Max. That tells you what type of teammate someone is, when others are excited about another man's success, that tells you about him."


Durkin, who was a blue-collar overachieving linebacker at Bowling Green, can appreciate the same kind of player in his starting quarterback. Though certainly not as dynamic as either Hill or Pigrome, especially outside the pocket, Bortenschlager has the ability to get out of the pocket, which affects how creative Bell can get with his play-calling.

"Every guy has different strengths and weaknesses and all that, but I think Max is a complete player," Durkin said. "Those are plays for him to make a decision and read, and he made the right decision when he did. He was effective. I don't think we're going to have Max carrying 30 times a game, but I think he can be effective, certainly, when it's there for him."

Injuries to Maryland's top three quarterbacks has put sophomore Max Bortenschlager into the starting lineup

Said Bortenschlager: “I don't think you ever want to play cautious or anything, but definitely playing smart is a big thing. I'm not a big runner anyway. I'm not going to make a bunch of people miss. So I'm going to try to get as many yards as I can and just get down and play the next play.”

It’s hard to tell just how excited Bortenschlager was after the Minnesota game and will be going into Ohio Stadium to lead a team that will be 30 1/2-point underdogs. As the Terps try to erase the memory of last year’s 62-3 defeat at Maryland Stadium, Bortenschlager will have his first college start in the back of his mind.

Playing for an injured Perry Hills at Nebraska late in his freshman season, Bortenschlager showed some poise in a 28-7 loss to the No. 18 Cornhuskers in front of an announced 89,704 at Memorial Stadium. He completed 14 of 29 passes for 191 yards, including a 92-yard catch and (mostly run) by DJ Moore.

“Nebraska is just as storied a program as Ohio State. They have so much tradition and the fans are just as crazy,” Bortenschlager said. “That was a crazy environment. This environment is going to be crazy, too, but I think I’ll be ready for it.”

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