Big Ten

Terps' Will Likely breaks Big Ten record with 233 punt-return yards


Terps' Will Likely breaks Big Ten record with 233 punt-return yards

COLLEGE PARK — In the moment, Will Likely wasn’t aware exactly how many yards he had racked up on special teams in Saturday's 50-21 win over Richmond.

It turns out, his 233 punt return yards set a new Big Ten record, eclipsing the mark set by Iowa’s Nile Kinnick in 1939.

“1930?” Likely asked, in disbelief that he could be hearing that correctly when told of the record by a reporter postgame. He was given the more precise date — 1939.

“That’s a long time. It’s a blessing, man, just be able to do that, to be able to break somebody’s record who did it that long (ago) and it hasn’t been broken? That’s a blessing.”

Richmond kept punting it to him, and he kept returning it. And when Richmond tried to punt it away from him, he kept going and getting it and returning it again.

On his last return of the day, he dipped and dodged 67 yards with very little gas left in the tank, diving from just outside the goal line to reach across and score a touchdown.

[MORE BIG TEN: Behind stellar defense, Northwestern chops down Stanford in upset]

“Give Will credit. He was going to track them down,” head coach Randy Edsall said. “He’s a ball hawk, and he loves getting that ball in his hands.”

It’s rare that a program is able to send a starting-caliber returner to the NFL and have one come in the next season and be as good or better than the one who has left.

Stefon Diggs, who shared duties with Likely last season, has been tremendous for the Minnesota Vikings as a punt returner in the preseason.

Likely steps in full-time and in one game tallied more punt return yards (233) than he did all of last season (225). The single-game total of 233 places him 12th on Maryland's single-season list.

“I don’t know if there’s enough superlatives to use in regards to Will Likely,” Edsall said. “He’s a joy to be around. He’s a joy to coach.”

As electric as Likely’s punt returns are to watch for entertainment value alone, they’re also crucially important to what Maryland wants to do offensively this season.

Quarterback Perry Hills will continue to settle into the starting role, and if he can set up in an opponent’s territory on a regular basis thanks to Likely, that makes his job much easier.

One more note on the player whose record Likely broke on Saturday? Kinnick went on to win the Heisman Trophy during that 1939 season.

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Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately


Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.

Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football. 

"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.

"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.

"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline." 

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."

"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.

"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."

Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal


Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.