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Thursday, June 13
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

Evans shines in featured role

Even when Mitchell Evans made a mistake, he did it right. 

With a 13-7 lead in the third quarter and facing a fourth and 12, the do-it-all junior prepared to pooch a punt in an attempt to pin Illinois against its own end zone. 

But the ball flew off his foot like a dead duck, falling a mere eight yards past the line of scrimmage. Before Evans could trot off the field in disgust, though, the ball hit an Illinois blocker and was recovered by sophomore tight end Max Dedmond in the red zone. 

As IU coach Bill Lynch saw the lucky bounce, he couldn’t help but feel the tide turn his way.

“When it happened, you kind of start thinking, ‘I think we’ve got a chance to win this game,’ because sometimes breaks just have to go your way,” Lynch said.

Lynch’s intuition proved correct, as the Hoosiers controlled the night en route to a 27-14 victory against Illinois, his first victory against the Big Ten rival in his career as a head coach.

And thankfully for Evans, his night didn’t start nor end with the shanked kick.  
IU, looking for a spark to end the team’s three-game slide, based its offense around Evans to gain its first Big Ten win of the year. He assumed the quarterback role 11 times Saturday night, and he said he was grateful for the chance.

“I’m happy that the coaches have the confidence in me to revolve that around me,” Evans said. “I just try to make the best of it.”

As Evans led the Hoosiers, they unveiled a new wrinkle to their offense, setting up with either Evans or junior quarterback Ben Chappell behind center and a diamond-shaped, four-wide receiver set. 

Thanks in large part to the Illini’s unfamiliarity with the formation and the various players sent in motion, Evans was able to scramble for a team- and career-high 84 yards and, when Chappell took the helm, hauled in three passes for 17 yards.

Just as it had been in their close loss to Michigan in September, Lynch said he feels balance is key to the success of what he deems the “Mitchell Evans offense.”

“When the game’s even, then it’s very effective,” Lynch said. “The last two weeks we were behind so far and forced into passing games, and some of those things were taken out of the offense.” 

Evans said the attack that focuses around him probably works so well because it adds to the list of things for opposing defenses to prepare for Saturday. However, until this past weekend, Evans’ offense couldn’t get rolling the way they would have liked.

Before Saturday, Evans had just 14 receptions for 155 yards and 11 carries for 41 yards. But his breakout game against Illinois showed just how much the offense depends on him.

The balance he brought to the offense allowed Chappell to be comfortable in the pocket and sling the ball around, as he was sacked just once and threw for career highs in yards (333) and touchdowns (3). 

Freshman running back Darius Willis countered with a solid 58 yards, and sophomore wide receivers Tandon Doss and Damarlo Belcher exploded for 221 combined yards and two touchdowns.

As the numbers show, with Evans, the Hoosiers have a dangerous, versatile weapon that can use his legs to make everyone around him play better.
Just as long as he only uses those legs to run.

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