Arkansas turns attention to stopping No. 18 Hokies, QB Evans
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Arkansas Razorbacks have three wins against Top 25 teams this season.
Coach Bret Bielema knows to earn a fourth Thursday night in the Belk Bowl his team will need to find a way to slow down Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans.
Evans has been Mr. Everything for the 18th-ranked Hokies (9-4) this season, establishing single-season school records for yards passing (3,303), TD passes (27) and total offense (4,062) while also leading the team with 759 yards rushing and 10 TDs.
''His size and mobility in the run game - you don't have a quarterback that runs with that much authority a lot of times,'' Bielema said. ''You usually face a guy who slides or avoids contact. He seems to thrive off contact.''
Evans said one of players he patterns his game after is Panthers 6-foot-5, 245-pound quarterback Cam Newton, a former Heisman Trophy winner at Auburn and NFL Most Valuable Player. On Thursday night, Evans will play in the same stadium where Newton now plays on Sundays.
At 6-foot-3, 238 pounds, Evans is a little smaller than Newton, but not by much.
''The way he plays the game of football - he does anything it takes to win,'' Evans said of Newton. ''I am pretty sure he likes to throw the ball more but coach has to run him more and that is what he does to win the game.''
When asked if Evans reminds him of Newton, Hokies coach Justin Fuente broke into a smile, ''Well, you're talking about the guy who was the NFL MVP. In terms of having a big strong arm and being a powerful and skilled runner, it's a long stretch to connect those two. But I can see some reason to connect them.''
Some other things to watch in the Belk Bowl:
BUILT FORD TOUGH: Look for Evans to rely heavily on wide receiver Isaiah Ford in the passing game. He's the only ACC player to hold sole possession of his school's career records for receptions (204), yards receiving (2,911) and TD catches (24). Ford is three catches shy of breaking his own Virginia Tech single-season record of 75 he established last year.
WILLIAMS READY TO RUN: Arkansas (7-5) is expected to attack the Hokies on the ground with Rawleigh Williams III, who leads the SEC with 1,326 yards rushing and 68 total first downs. He's also tied for third with 12 TD runs. The Hokies know they can't just key on Williams as a runner though. He's the only non-QB in college football to run for four TDs in a game and throw a TD pass, accomplishing that feat against Mississippi State.
WALKER READY TO RETURN: Williams will get some help in the backfield from running back Kody Walker, who has been cleared to play in the Belk Bowl following what has been an injury-plagued career at Arkansas. Walker broke a bone in his foot in a 49-30 loss to No. 1 Alabama on Oct. 8. Walker has been through eight surgeries during his college career. He received news that he might have a chance to play in a bowl game about a month ago and Bielema said ''from that point forward he was walking around with a red beam on his head.''
REPLACING BEAMER: With a win in the Belk Bowl, Fuente would become the first coach in Virginia Tech history to win 10 games in his first season. Fuente said Beamer helped make his transition very easy. ''I mean he was immensely popular,'' Fuente said. ''There may never be a person in the history of the school that means as much to Virginia Tech and maybe even Blacksburg as Frank Beamer. The way coach is and his genuine love for Virginia Tech and how humble he is and how supportive he has been, the things everyone thinks were huge hurdles weren't. That allowed us to coaching the football team and handling the transition internally.''
ALLEN LOOKING GOOD: Razorbacks quarterback Austin Allen isn't sure whether he'll walk away with a bowl victory or not, but he knows he'll be walking away looking good after the game. As part of bowl sponsorship from Belk department stores, Allen said he wound up getting three new suits for about $200. ''They had a buy one, get two suits free,'' Allen said. ''And then you get 20 percent off that, and if you sign for a credit card you get another 20 percent off. So it was pretty awesome.''
More AP college football: www.collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25