For this weekly column, the Minnesota Daily will interview someone knowledgeable about Minnesota’s next opponent. This week, the Gophers are playing Maryland. The Daily talked with Roman Stubbs — a football beat writer for the Washington Post.
Stubbs is in his fourth year covering the Maryland Terrapins for the Washington Post. He started on the beat when Maryland joined the Big Ten in 2014.
[Other than] all these quarterback injuries, have there been any other injuries affecting the season this year?
They play a 3-4, and their buck linebacker — kind of their hybrid defensive end — Jesse Aniebonam broke his ankle the first week against Texas. He was their best pass rusher. I think he had nine sacks last year and 14 tackles-for-loss — great player. So they’ve had to kind of hatch over that position and shuffle guys in to find some pass rushing, and so that’s been a huge impact. At this point, obviously, the two quarterbacks and then losing a defensive end, it’s been a pretty difficult blow for them.
After beating a ranked Texas team and then dominating Towson 63-17, how tough of a loss was last week’s to UCF?
It’s obviously difficult to kind of comprehend. They were looking at potentially going 3-0 headed into the Big Ten opener, and what looked like a pretty winnable game at Minnesota as well. When Hill went down in the first quarter, it was like this energy just went out of the stadium and went out of the team. You could just feel it and things weren’t the same after that. All that optimism that they had built, particularly after the win over Texas, just seemed to be a distant memory.
Minnesota is second to last in terms of Big Ten passing yards. They live and die by the run. How good is Maryland’s rush defense?
It struggled last week. Particularly dealing with kind of a dual-threat quarterback. The defense mostly struggled because the offense was so inept — I think the offense only converted two third downs. The defense was on the field for really long stretches. We saw a lot out of Minnesota — in this game last year they were so good. The multiple backs really hurt Maryland and they're going to have to figure out how to make sure they can stop the run to even have a chance coming into this game.
Max Bortenschlager — the QB who played after Hill left the game with an injury — was sacked five times last game. Are there some problems up front with the line?
I think a few of those were probably Max’s fault, just not making decisive enough decisions. The offensive line played really well against Texas and Towson. It was kind of expected to be a strong suit of this team. But yeah, they really struggled in particularly the second half against Central Florida … I think they only had 46 yards rushing. They came into that game averaging like 315 on the ground, or something ridiculous like that so it was a pretty stunning drop off. The offensive line has some talented players.
Maryland has allowed 96 points on defense this year compared to Minnesota’s 24. What are the weaknesses of Maryland’s defense?
There’s been issues at all three levels. It’s not just a secondary thing, or a defensive line thing or a linebacker thing. I just think the whole unit didn’t play well against Central Florida.
Weaknesses on offense?
If Hill’s not healthy, the offense is going to look a lot different. This is a wide-open offense that’s up-tempo, spreads you out, that kind of relied on dual-threat quarterbacks … Bortenschlager doesn’t have really that ability, so you kind of take away a dimension from the offense ... He’s a guy who can make throws. I mean, he’s got one of the strongest arms on the roster … They’ve got to put him in better positions to make plays. They have one of the best receivers in the Big Ten in D.J. Moore, two of the best running backs in the Big Ten in Harrison and Johnson, so now you’ve just got to figure out how to kind of allow those guys to make plays and be the go-to guys within that offense.
Speed Round Questions
Best Player on the offense?
WR D.J. Moore
Best Player on the defense?
LB Jermaine Carter Jr.
Best player on the team?
WR D.J. Moore
High or low scoring game?
Low, one of those classic Big Ten slug fests.
Will Maryland break 100 rushing yards?
Best team in the Big Ten?
Best team in college football?
Maryland’s record at the end of the year?
5-7, and just miss bowl eligibility
Editor's note: This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.