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Maryland’s Max Bortenschlager is not a typical 3rd string quarterback

Maryland’s former third string quarterback led the Terps to a road upset last week.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

It’s funny how things work out.

Max Bortenschlager was committed to Buffalo and was expected to sign there until a highly touted Maryland native decommitted from his hometown Maryland Terrapins to sign with a Big Ten rival. That highly touted quarterback? Dwayne Haskins.

Bortenschlager then decommitted from Buffalo and signed with the Terrapins once Maryland needed another quarterback to fill out the class. Bortenschlager surprisingly started a game as a true freshman, but began the 2017 season as the team’s third string quarterback behind Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill. Three games and two season-ending knee injuries later, Bortenschlager is now the starter for the Terps.

After being pressed into duties against Central Florida — Maryland’s lone loss of the season — the third stringer bounced back during his first start of the season last week against Minnesota. Known as a pass-first quarterback, Bortenschlager was able to make the defense respect his legs, which made the Gophers’ defense adjust from keying primarily on stud running back Ty Johnson. Sure, he only registered 18 yards on four carries, but his decision making gave the defense another option to defend.

“They started out the game pretty aggressive, trying to not cheat but get an edge on our running backs,” Bortenschlager said. “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.”

It may not look like much, but his 11-yard run (below) on the Terps’ first drive of the afternoon opened things up for the rest of the offense. Minnesota now had to account for the quarterback in the run game and could no longer key on Johnson in the zone read. Below, the end crashed down hard on the running back, expecting the quarterback to hand it off, but instead he kept the ball and moved the chains.

Ty Johnson went on to gash the Minnesota defense, carrying the ball 18 times for 130 yards and a touchdown — including the game winning 34-yarder. As seen below, instead of keying on Johnson and filling the open hole, the linebacker decided to slow-play the run and engage with the Maryland lineman, leaving a gaping, game-winning hole for Johnson to explode through for six.

As we saw in 2015 against Maryland, quarterback Perry Hills racked up 170 yards and two touchdowns on the talented Buckeye defense. Bortenschlager is not some dynamic athlete, but he should garner the respect of the Ohio State defense, which could open up holes for Ty Johnson and the passing game. Bortenschlager was efficient through the air, completing 18-of-28 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns, and did not turn the ball over. He also added another score on the ground, on a 7-yard designed quarterback draw.

“Those runs he made, they were effective,” said Ty Johnson. “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.”