After becoming the first Maryland player in eight years to get four touchdowns in a game — including one on a 97-yard kickoff return — sophomore running back Javon Leake was named Monday as the Big Ten’s Offensive and Special Teams Player of the Week.
Leake’s performance came in a 63-33 victory over Illinois. As a team, the Terps set a school record for the most points scored in a conference game (Big Ten or Atlantic Coast Conference). Maryland had 712 yards of offense — nearly 600 more than in the previous week’s 23-0 loss at then-No. 19 Iowa.
Coming into the game as the team’s No. 3 running back behind senior Ty Johnson and redshirt freshman Anthony McFarland Jr., Leake rushed for 140 yards on five carries, including touchdown runs of 64, 43 and 27 yards. He accounted for 274 all-purpose yards.
“I’m really happy for Javon Leake,” interim coach and offensive coordinator Matt Canada said after the game, which helped Maryland (5-3, 3-2) get within one win of becoming bowl-eligible going into Saturday’s home matchup with Michigan State.
Canada went on to talk about Leake’s climb up the depth chart, which had been partly the result of his production in a limited role and the fact that at least two players in front of him, juniors Lorenzo Harrison III and Jake Funk, are out with injuries.
“Again, his story was not at the top of the list in the running back room as the season began,” Canada said. “Because why? Well, we have a lot of talent and somebody had to be at the bottom. He continued to practice hard and the last three weeks he’s practiced so well.”
Leake might move up the depth chart this week if Johnson, who threw a terrific block to free his teammate on the long kickoff return, is not able to go Saturday against the Spartans. Johnson, the team's leading rusher entering the Illinois game, sat out the second half Saturday with a calf injury.
Canada said he complimented Leake at a team meeting Friday, and that his teammates applauded.
“I said to him, ‘You’re not getting your touches, but you’re still working hard and practicing hard,’ ” Canada recalled. “That’s what you’re supposed to do. That’s what a team guy does. … Leake is a great story and to continue pounding the rock and finding a way to get your shot.”