Given More Work, Darren Evans Is a Horse for Hokies
Friday, November 7, 2008
BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 6 -- Darren Evans tried playing coy. Evans attempted to admit he did not know who held Virginia Tech's rushing record before he broke it Thursday night with a 253-yard performance that led the Hokies to a 23-13 win over Maryland.
Then, the redshirt freshman three days shy of his 20th birthday cracked his statue's expression and confessed.
"I think it was Mike Imoh, playing against, uh, North Carolina," Evans said. "So yeah, I knew."
The attempt at modesty can be understood, although it was not necessary after trumping Imoh's 2004 performance by 10 yards just nine games into his college career.
Thursday's victory might be remembered for many reasons: senior Sean Glennon's gutsy performance while starting again in his seesaw career; offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring's vindication after overseeing 400 yards of total offense during a season in which he has endured criticism for lackluster performances; and the wherewithal of a team that has overcome injuries and inexperience to remain a threat in the ACC.
But Evans's performance will put his name alongside some of the great running backs to have come through Blacksburg in recent seasons.
Evans read quotes from running backs coach Billy Hite saying carries would be distributed based on Hite's in-game evaluation. Evans took this as an initiative. Hite called upon No. 32 a total of 32 times by game's end.
"We said we needed to run the ball better," Coach Frank Beamer said. "He kind of got in there and got hot. When he got hot, we just kept giving it to him."
Entering the game, the most carries Evans received was 21. He had said throughout the season that he needs a lot of carries to become comfortable. After ascending to the top of the Virginia Tech record book Thursday, Evans couldn't help but wonder what might have been had he received such a workload all season.
"It's been kind of hard to get into a rhythm the way defenses have been playing us," Evans said.
In losses to Boston College and Florida State -- games that prompted Beamer to insist the team needed more production from the running game -- Evans struggled as the starter, with 104 yards combined. But what irked him was the second half of the loss to Seminoles, when he received just four carries.
After the way he rolled through Maryland's defense, that likely will not occur again. The effects of Evans's performance were felt throughout the roster. Glennon noted how much easier his job became when Evans rushed the way he did. Linebacker Cody Grimm pointed out the benefits for the defense when its players can regain their breath on the sideline.
Even better for Virginia Tech, Evans has three seasons of eligibility remaining.
"I'm just a freshman. A lot of people will be talking about that," Evans said. "I got some good years in front of me if I stay healthy and keep my head humble."
This time, there was no need be coy. Evans knew he could not hide the truth.