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Virginia Tech's Evans proves doubters wrong

11/7/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Virginia Tech tailback Darren Evans had heard the doubters from the time he was in high school to the days leading up to Thursday night's game against Maryland.

There were legitimate reasons, though, for the wavering confidence. Not only had Evans not had a 100-yard rushing performance this season, but the entire offense wasn't even able to hit that mark in its last game at Florida State.

Evans single-handedly changed that on Thursday night when he ran for a school-record 253 yards and a touchdown in the Hokies' critical 23-13 win over Maryland.

"I know a lot of people back home never thought I would be this way, or come this far," said Evans, a redshirt freshman. "I've even heard people talking about turning me into a quarterback when I got to college, that I was too big or too slow. I don't have that Noel Devine-type speed, but I do think I'm a good running back. It was big to come out and have a good game on Thursday night at our home when we needed it most."

It was a validating performance not just for Evans, who carried the ball 32 times, but for an offense in dire need of a spark. Evans and backup Josh Oglesby combined to average 64 yards per game and had no touchdowns in losses to Boston College and Florida State.

This time, though, the holes were big enough for an elephant to go through. The offensive line blocked. The receivers blocked. Tight end Greg Boone blocked. And Evans ran and ran.

He called it "beautiful."

"This game really put my head above the water," he said. "It really showed me I belong out here."

And the staff kept him out there. He finished with 273 all-purpose yards, including a career-long rush of 50 yards in the second quarter. It was the first run over 25 yards by a Virginia Tech tailback this season.

"Darren got into a great rhythm out there, and our offensive line should be credited for what took place," offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring said. "We're not going to shy away from the fact that running the ball is certainly going to be paramount for us. For Darren Evans to come out there and do what he did ... anytime you see something take place and nobody had the heads up means a great deal."

After his record-setting performance against the Terps, any doubts were replaced by congratulations. He didn't know he broke the record until his teammates told him in the locker room.

"It just blew my mind," Evans said. "I knew I had over 100, but I didn't think it was 250 yards."

The team and the coaching staff had gotten tired of hearing about how their offense wasn't any good. Virginia Tech was averaging 160 rushing yards per game and was last in the league and 112th in the nation in total offense with 280 yards per game. They spent the entire bye week working on the running game. Evans had shown flashes of potential, but nothing close to a breakout performance like this.

"He kind of got in there and got hot," Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. "When he got hot we just kept giving it to him. He did a good job. But there were some holes there and he jumped right in and ran strong, ran really strong. I'm proud of him."

Evans said he was motivated by those who thought he couldn't do it.

"I never doubted myself, but when I hear things that people say 'you can't do this' ... I even heard this week people say I wouldn't get over 100 yards, just cuz we haven't been getting over 100 yards. That's just fuel to my fire, really."