A season that had started to look so promising for the Maryland football team and a career that began so impressively for freshman quarterback Kasim Hill took a decidedly depressing turn Saturday against Central Florida. Or, more accurately, a terrible spin at Maryland Stadium.
Hill, who got his chance when sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome suffered a season-ending ACL injury in the season-opening win at Texas, sustained what appeared to be a serious right leg injury in the first quarter of what became a shocking 38-10 loss to the Knights.
While crediting UCF for its dominant performance, second-year Maryland coach DJ Durkin was clearly upset with his own team and its inability to recover from the emotional aftermath of Hill's injury as well as stop the Knights and sophomore quarterback McKenzie Milton.
"They made the plays to win the game, but our guys as a team, I think we did not handle adversity well," Durkin said. "I think so far this year in only three games we played, we had adversity that we have handled and now we had some that we didn't.
"That certainly showed. When you play a good team like that, you've got to do it. In all aspects of the game. It was different guys, it was all over. There was a level of play that we were at and it consistently dropped off at different spots at different times."
The injury to Hill came after he spun away for a short gain in the first quarter and was sandwiched to the ground by 311-pound defensive end Jamiyus Pittman and linebacker Chequan Burkett. It appeared that he was hit low from behind and again up high, twisting his body as he fell.
After staying on the field for several minutes in obvious pain, Hill was helped off by trainers, both legs dangling in the air.
The injury appeared to have a major impact on the outcome in terms of Maryland's collective emotion as well as the way UCF was able to attack the Terps defensively.
"We just need to respond to adversity," senior linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. said. "We're always going to face some adversity. Coach does a good job of preparing us on how to handle these situations. We didn't do a good job today. We just have to be better next week."
Not as mobile as Hill or Pigrome, Bortenschlager was under constant pressure from UCF, getting sacked five times and being intercepted twice, one of which was returned for a touchdown after bouncing off the normally reliable hands of junior DJ Moore.
With the Terps lacking a real playmaker at quarterback, the Knights loaded up on Maryland's running game, limiting junior Ty Johnson, who had been averaging more than 15 yards per attempt this season, to 25 yards on 11 carries.
After averaging 315 yards as a team, Maryland was held to just 42 by the Knights. UCF made 11 tackles for loss.
"That's why we talk so much about us being two-dimensional really helps us," said Durkin, whose team converted just two of 13 third-down chances. "That's something we really need to do. To this point this year, we've really be able to. Certainly some of that was taken away."
Neither Durkin nor Johnson blamed Bortenschlager for his team's first loss of the season.
"It wasn't because Max can't execute or Max can't do it; there was a lot of guys that had their fingerprints on how that went today, not just Max," Durkin said. "It starts with the O-line, receivers, running backs, across the board."
Said Johnson, "He played his heart out. It's kind of rough being thrown in a situation like that. … I think he handled it well and he played his hardest."
Though Maryland took a 3-0 lead shortly after Hill was helped off, the offense stagnated under Bortenschlager. The defense, which came in with some energy, seemed to wear out from a combination of its team's short offensive possessions and UCF's fast-paced spread offense.
The Knights, who had not played since their season-opening win over Florida International on Aug. 31 because of Hurricane Irma, rushed for 250 yards total and averaged 6.4 yards per carry.
Milton, whose late fumble led to Maryland's winning touchdown in a 30-24 double-overtime victory last year in Orlando, led UCF (2-0) with 94 rushing yards on six carries, while also completing 18 of 30 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown.
"We let the circumstances somehow affect how we're going to play and respond, and all of a sudden we had breakdowns and a lack of communication," Durkin said. "That was the message to the team — how someone getting hurt on offense can affect how we play on defense, I don't know, or how we play on special teams."
NOTES: Moore provided the only highlight of the game for the Terps, a leaping catch and run for a 20-yard touchdown that cut the deficit to 21-10. It was Moore's fourth touchdown catch of the season and 13th of his career, putting him fifth on the school's all-time touchdown receptions list.