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Monday, Feb. 26
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

Darius Willis seeks redemption against Broncos

Just about every college football season, a story emerges about an athlete whose first play just so happens to be a touchdown. 

The start to Darius Willis’ career is not one of those stories. 

Instead, during the IU redshirt freshman’s first play in cream and crimson, he took a carry to the outside, got flipped at the legs by a defender, and lost control of the ball.  
Not exactly the start to a fairy tale career for the talented running back. 

“I was mad at first – frustrated,” Willis said of his first play, “but you’ve got to get on to the next play and don’t let it stay in your head.”

Despite the positive vibes he tried to give off throughout the rest of the game, Willis only had a chance to get on the stat sheet two more times, resulting in a paltry three yards. 

So how much did Willis, the highest-rated in-state prospect to come to IU since 1997, hurt his chances at getting more carries with his fumble?

“It might have had a little bit to do with it,” IU coach Bill Lynch said while smiling and holding back laughter. “But we still love him and think he’s going to be a great player.”

Lynch shares his opinion with the majority of Hoosier fans, but the much-hyped running back had to cause some concern with his lack of production.

He was expected to be the answer for the Hoosiers’ running back problems in the post-Anthony Thompson world, and fans wrapped their proverbial arms around Willis as the first savior of the infamously dire program.

His one-yard-per-carry average last Thursday no doubt deflated the excitement Hoosier fans in the seemingly endless months before they saw the team’s top prospect take the field.

It’s hard to blame the fans for being excited. 

The last time Willis was seen in action, he dominated opponents en route to 1,728 yards and 28 touchdowns, earning him runner-up honors for Indiana Mr. Football and the No. 48 spot in the nation among running back recruits in his class. 

To be fair, his mistake was not the only thing that kept him off the field on opening night. He suffered a shin injury, prompting Lynch to put his prized horse in the stable until healthy.  
Willis left no doubt about his status going into his next game, however.  
“I’ll be ready for week two,” Willis said defiantly, with a determined tone. “We’ll all be ready.”

The team will need all he can offer in week two, as the Hoosiers managed only 2.4 yards per carry against Eastern Kentucky – even with the new emphasis on the running game.

It would seem Willis has a chance to really gallop against Western Michigan.
The Broncos gave up big holes to Michigan running backs last week, allowing 4.8 yards per carry and 242 yards on the ground. 

Heading into his second game, one would think his No. 1 goal would be to spit the bad taste that has lingered for over a week out of his mouth.

But he’ll never tell you that.

After being asked what his main objective was going into the next game, Willis took a second, seemingly to think about what he should say, and then towed football’s company line.

“My goal is just to go out and win,” Willis said, smiling. “Win each and every play against the opponent.” 

Willis may never be able to rewrite the history books, but this week, he has a chance to start the second chapter on a much better note.

Prediction: IU 24 – Western Michigan 21

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