A week after getting shutout by Iowa, Maryland football ran up 712 yards of offense in a 63-33 shellacking of Illinois in College Park. It’s the most points Maryland has scored since joining the Big Ten, and its most since yards since at least 1982, according to the team (its highest total was 802 against Virginia in 1975).
It’s hard to come away with too much when the Illini were so bad defensively, but here’s what stood out.
Javon Leake had a ridiculous game.
Leake came into this game with just four touches on the season. He finished the game with four touchdowns. The sophomore has been buried on the depth chart since he came to College Park, though it’s hard to imagine why after his performance against Illinois. He started his day with a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, then added a 64-yard run to the end zone in the second quarter. He had two more touchdowns in the second half, scoring on runs of 27 and 43-yards against a porous Illinois defense.
Even with Lorenzo Harrison III out for the season, Jake Funk missing every game except the first and Ty Johnson sitting out the second half with a calf strain, the Terps still have quite a few playmakers out of the backfield. For interim coach Matt Canada, Leake’s performance was the culmination of the hard work he’s put in even as he started the year at the bottom of the depth chart.
“The last three weeks [Leake] has practiced so well to the point where yesterday in the meeting I complimented him and everybody clapped for him and said ‘You’re not getting your touches but you’re still working hard,’” Canada said. “That’s what a team guy has to do.”
Good things happen when Jeshaun Jones touches the ball.
The freshman has been mostly silent since his record-setting debut against Texas, but had another impressive performance against Illinois. He had 104 offensive yards on just six touches, and is the first Big Ten freshman to score a rushing and receiving touchdown in multiple games since Ohio State’s Maurice Clarett in 2003. In his short time at Maryland, In only 19 touches this season, he’s averaged over 16 yards per play and scored five touchdowns.
Kasim Hill played his best game of the season.
It’s been a frustrating season for the redshirt freshman. Since completing 17 passes against Texas, Hill had not completed double-digit passes in any of the Terps’ six games since. While 11-of-19 does not sound like an impressive line, six of his passes went for 25 yards or more. His confidence grew as the game went on, and his final play, a 25-yard touchdown pass to Chigoziem Okonkwo where he stepped up to avoid the rush, was the cherry on top.
Maryland had balance on offense for the first time in weeks, which is critical for a team entering the toughest part of its schedule.
Maryland put the new redshirt rule to good use.
With the game over by the start of the fourth quarter, Maryland got its future some experience. Tyler DeSue relieved Hill by the end of the third quarter, and Austin Fontaine got his first serious playing time of the season. Jaelyn Duncan, Tyler Baylor, Vincent Flythe and others saw the field as well, and all three could play a significant role for the Terps going forward.
Maryland still hasn’t played a close Big Ten game.
Maryland hasn’t been close to competitive against some of the conference’s best teams, so it’s surprising to see the Terps still light years ahead of some teams in the league. Maryland has outscored opponents 139-53 in its Big Ten wins, with 16 touchdowns of 20 yards or longer. The two losses, meanwhile, were by 28 and 23 points.
The rest of the Big Ten isn’t this rigid. Rutgers almost beat Northwestern last week; that Wildcats team upset Wisconsin on Saturday. Even Minnesota, who Maryland blew out earlier this season, played Ohio State somewhat close. That’s something the Terps have only dreamed of doing since they entered the conference.
It’ll be somewhat surprising if this trend continues against Michigan State next weekend or at Indiana after that. The Terps have played both teams within two possessions each of the last two years, splitting with each. While most of Maryland’s early-conference results have been somewhat predictable, that won’t be the case in the next two games.