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Maryland football steamrolls Illinois, 63-33

The Terps’ offense exploded for 712 yards and eight touchdowns.

Maryland football Javon Leake vs. Illinois Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

Maryland football breezed past Illinois at home Saturday, winning 63-33 to move within one victory of bowl eligibility.

After being on the wrong end of a shutout last week, Maryland’s offense couldn’t be stopped in this game. The Terps totaled a staggering 712 yards to Illinois’ 493. The 63 points are a new team record for a Big Ten game.

Sophomore running back Javon Leake was the star, scoring four touchdowns. He started the show with a 97-yard kick return score, then ripped off scoring runs of 64, 27 and 43 yards—his final rushing line: five carries, 140 yards and three scores. He’s the first Maryland player to score four touchdowns in a game since D.J. Adams in the 2010 Military Bowl. The performance came virtually out of nowhere, as Leake had just seven carries all season before Saturday.

He had plenty of support on offense. Redshirt freshman quarterback Kasim Hill went 11-of-19 for a career-high 265 passing yards and three touchdowns. It’s a stark change from his 47-yard performance last week. True freshman wide receiver Jeshaun Jones had a rushing and receiving touchdown, totaling 104 yards from scrimmage (68 rushing, 36 receiving).

Illinois’ offense, meanwhile, couldn’t find the end zone until it was too late. The Illini’s first four scoring drives all ended in field goals, and their three long touchdowns came with Maryland way in front in the final 16 minutes. Reggie Corbin ran for 159 yards on 18 carries, including a 69-yarder for Illinois’ first score. Starting quarterback M.J. Rivers II struggled before being knocked out with an injury, and senior AJ Bush (who’s started five games this year) tallied an inconsequential 216 yards and two touchdowns in relief.

Maryland’s offense started with an ugly three-and-out, and Illinois’ first offensive play vaulted it into the red zone. But the defense held, forcing a 32-yard field goal. On the ensuing kickoff, Leake found a hole and sprinted 97 yards to the house for his first career return touchdown, giving the Terps a 7-3 lead.

After forcing a punt, Maryland converted three third downs on its next drive. Hill found Taivon Jacobs for a 26-yard strike over the middle to get the Terps closer to the middle of the field, and his pass to Jahrvis Davenport in the flat two series later turned into a big play thanks to Jeshaun Jones’ block. Davenport turned the corner and raced 46 yards for his second touchdown of the season, and the Terps had a 14-3 lead that would hold through the first quarter.

Illinois started the second quarter with another red-zone field goal, but Leake broke loose again on Maryland’s ensuing drive. His 64-yard rushing touchdown gave the Terps a 21-6 lead. The teams then traded lengthy, run-heavy drives that ran the majority of the second-quarter clock, but Maryland held Illinois to another field goal before Hill found Jones for a 14-yard touchdown with 2:02 left in the half.

Maryland took that 28-9 lead into halftime, but not without drama. Rivers went down injured after a rollout and Tre Watson—who grad transferred from Illinois to Maryland and has been the Terps’ best defensive player this year—earning a questionable targeting ejection. Bush entered for the Illini, but his first pass was picked off by Antwaine Richardson for the junior’s first career interception. Maryland almost had a scoring chance, but the clock ran out.

The second half started exactly how most of the first half went. Illinois drove inside Maryland’s 10 but settled for another field goal, making it 28-12. The Terps answered with a touchdown once again, this time on a Jeshaun Jones 43-yard jet sweep, his second touchdown of the day. Maryland’s next drive was its exclamation point. Hill found Dontay Demus on a 52-yard deep ball, then Leake ran it 27 yards for the score on the very next play. Just like that, it was a 42-12 game.

Maryland scored again on its next drive, with Hill finding an astonishingly open Chigoziem Okonkwo in the end zone from 25 yards out. Corbin “answered” for Illinois with a 69-yard run that made it 49-19 as the third quarter wrapped up. Leake scored again in the fourth quarter, and Illinois had two explosive plays of its own in the final 10 minutes. By this point, though, the game was very much over.

Maryland will host Michigan State next Saturday at noon.

Three things to know

1. The offense was the most explosive version of itself. Maryland had scoring plays of 46, 64, 43, 14, 27, 25, 43 and 54 yards, and that doesn’t count Leake’s 97-yard kick return. The Terps totaled 712 yards of offense and had 531 through three quarters. It’s been an inconsistent unit, but when it’s on, it’s incredible.

2. Javon Leake made a statement. The sophomore entered Saturday with seven carries for 66 yards this season. He had five for 140 and three scores in this game, plus a 97-yard kick return touchdown. Even with Johnson presumably returning next week and Jake Funk potentially coming back from a broken hand soon, Leake has surely barged into whatever rotation Maryland utilizes going forward.

3. The Terps are up to five wins. They’ve officially surpassed last year’s total of four, and if they win one of their final four contests, they’ll be back in the postseason. That’s not some monumental achievement, but after the adversity Maryland faced last season and everything that’s surrounded the program in the last few months, it’d be a step in a positive direction.