hokies notebook

After missing '09 with knee injury, RB Evans reemerges - and changes minds

By Mark Giannotto
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 6, 2010

BLACKSBURG, VA. - Darren Evans doesn't usually pay attention to what's being said about him on Internet message boards or in the media. But after missing all of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Virginia Tech's junior running back couldn't help feeling defensive in recent months.

What he read and heard - doubts over whether he should get carries instead of sophomores Ryan Williams and David Wilson - surprised him. Though he lost his starting spot because of the injury, Evans figured his 1,265 yards in 2008, a school rushing record for a freshman at the time, would carry more weight.

"I know I shouldn't take the opinions of everybody [to heart], but some of that stuff was coming from Hokies fans themselves," Evans said Tuesday, three days after he rushed for 160 yards, including a career-long 54-yard touchdown run, during Virginia Tech's comeback victory over North Carolina State. "That's big on you when the same people who are rooting for you are also kind of rooting against you - rooting for the guy behind you or in front of you. I shouldn't have taken it the way I did, but I'm using it as motivation rather than being mad at anybody."

The reemergence of Evans has been a convenient development for Virginia Tech because Williams, who broke Evans's team record with 1,655 yards rushing last year, has been sidelined the past two games with a right hamstring injury.

Williams's status for Saturday's game against Central Michigan remains in doubt, and his absence likely would mean another heavy workload for Evans, something the bruising tailback would welcome. Evans fumbled twice in the first three games this season, in large part because he thinks he didn't handle a football enough while he rehabbed his injured knee.

Now, though, the game has slowed down for him again, and as Coach Frank Beamer said immediately following Evans's big day against the Wolfpack, "he may be better than ever."

"I don't want to get satisfied," Evans said. "There's a lot for me to do, a lot for me to prove. I still feel like there's a lot of yards out there for me to run. If I'm satisfied, I might not get it."

Speech helps O-line

One of the main reasons the Hokies' ground game gained a season-high 317 yards against the Wolfpack was improved play along the offensive line. The win over North Carolina State was the first time this season that all five starting offensive linemen graded out at better than 80 percent, according to the coaches' review of the game film. Virginia Tech was also a perfect 3 of 3 in the red zone.

During the Hokies' 0-2 start to the season, the offensive line took much of the blame for the team's struggles on offense, something strength and conditioning coach Mike Gentry brought up during an impassioned halftime speech on Saturday after the Hokies managed just seven first-half points.

Gentry "told us the defense was over there fighting their butts off for us and we're too talented on the offensive side of the ball to not have any points up," Hokies guard Jaymes Brooks said. "We were criticized [a lot] in the beginning so we took it kind of hard and we're just out here trying to prove that we're better than we've been showing as of late."

Better late than never?

Though Virginia Tech was able to orchestrate the greatest comeback in Beamer's 24-year career against North Carolina State, their early-game struggles continued. They've been outscored, 41-14, and outgained, 490-357, in the first quarter this season.

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