Maryland looks to overcome the loss of another quarterback when it visits Minnesota for the Big Ten opener for both teams on Saturday. Starter Tyrrell Pigrome tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the season-opening 51-41 win against Texas and highly touted freshman Kasim Hill suffered the same fate in a 38-10 setback against Central Florida, leaving the Terrapins’ hopes of salvaging their campaign resting squarely on the shoulders of Max Bortenschlager.
“It’s part of the game, unfortunately, but when it happens at the same position, it makes life a little tougher,” Maryland coach D.J. Durkin told reporters. “Max has confidence in himself and we have confidence in him.” Minnesota is heading in the right direction under first-year coach P.J. Fleck following a 24-3 win against Middle Tennessee State. The Golden Gophers, who are coming off a bye week, have won their first three games by an average of 25 points and can register their first 4-0 start since 2013 by beating Maryland for the second time in as many seasons. Minnesota’s defense has played an integral role in the team’s early success as Robb Smith’s unit leads the nation in scoring defense (eight points per game) and is one of only two programs in the country that has not surrendered a second-half point.
TV: Noon ET, FS1. LINE: Minnesota -13
ABOUT MARYLAND (2-1): Bortenschlager came off the bench to complete 15-of-26 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown but threw two interceptions in the loss to UCF. Caleb Henderson, who transferred from North Carolina, missed a majority of training camp with a foot injury, but Durkin stated the junior quarterback likely will dress as the backup for Saturday’s clash. D.J. Moore continued his torrid start to the season as he hauled in eight passes for 83 yards and a score against the Knights to move into a fifth-place tie with current Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (13) on Maryland’s all-time touchdown receptions list.
ABOUT MINNESOTA (3-0): Kobe McCrary ran for 107 yards and three touchdowns in the win against Middle Tennessee State while Rodney Smith also gained 107 yards to become the 15th player in program history to surpass 2,000 career rushing yards. Backup quarterback Demry Croft remains suspended indefinitely for violating team rules and wide receiver Rashad Still, who had 18 receptions for 349 yards last season, is back with the team after missing the last two games for disciplinary reasons. “If you don’t do the right things, you won’t play,” Fleck told reporters. “I will never sacrifice doing the right thing for a win.”
1. Minnesota has won five consecutive home games.
2. Maryland has dropped seven of its last eight Big Ten road contests.
3. Fleck has won 23 of his last 26 games as a coach dating back to his tenure at Western Michigan.
PREDICTION: Minnesota 28, Maryland 13