Maryland running back Javon Leake had a breakout game against Illinois, with three rushing touchdowns and a kick return score. That performance earned him both Big Ten Offensive and Special Teams Player of the Week on Monday.
He’s the first player in conference history to earn both honors in the same week. Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers won Defensive and Special Teams Player of the Week simultaneously, doing so in September 2016. (The special teams award has been in existence since 1994.)
Leake scored a touchdown in every quarter of the Terps’ 63-33 win over Illinois. His first score came on a 97-yard kickoff return, giving Maryland a 7-3 lead after the Illini opened the scoring with a field goal. Leake broke free again for a 64-yard touchdown in the second quarter, then ran one in from 27 yards out in the third and another from 43 in the fourth. He finished with 140 yards and three touchdowns on five carries, plus three kick returns for 134 yards and the long touchdown.
This came largely out of nowhere, as Leake had been buried on Maryland’s running back depth chart behind Ty Johnson (who, like Leake, is a speed-first back), Anthony McFarland and Tayon Fleet-Davis. Leake had just seven carries for 66 yards and two scores entering Saturday. He’s now averaging 17.1 yards per carry on 12 rushes this season with five touchdowns.
Johnson suffered a strained calf in the Illinois game and missed the second half, which made it easier for Leake to continue to get carries Saturday. Even if the senior returns to the field this weekend, though, it’s hard to imagine Leake being relegated to the sideline. His four-touchdown performance caught a nation’s attention, and now it holds a special place in Big Ten history.