College Football: Three-TD games nothing new for Parks

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 5, 2011

By Mike London
During his Fantasy Island-career at West Rowan, tailback K.P. Parks scored three or more touchdowns in a game 32 times.
The challenges are far greater now, but Virginia’s redshirt freshman is now 1-for-1 on three-TD games in the college ranks. He debuted Saturday with 114 rushing yards and three journeys to the end zone in a 40-3 wipeout of William & Mary.
If you’re thinking Virginia should beat William & Mary, you’re right, but two years ago the Cavaliers didn’t. That’s how far off track things had gotten in Charlottesville. Parks hopes to be as big a part of righting the ship as any 5-foot-8, 195-pounder can be.
“Some of our guys knew what I had in me before Saturday and some were still wanting to see me do it on the field,” Parks said. “I think they all have confidence in me now to do the job and help win ballgames. This is a team game, and this team has a lot of ballgames to win this year.”
Parks’ Saturday actually got started early — way too early. Understandably, he was hyper about returning to active duty after a redshirt year.
His sleep was toss-and-turn turmoil. He sat up wide awake at 8 a.m., five hours before the first team meeting and 10 hours before kickoff. There wasn’t much do to except watch highlights from Thursday’s games on television.
“I was just very excited, but I tried hard to keep calm and keep focused,” he said.
Parks knew he would operate behind junior Perry Jones, but he was prepared mentally for a substantial workload.
Even though he sat down pretty early, he got 16 carries.
“I wasn’t surprised at all,” Parks said. “Perry is the starter, he’s the experienced guy, but I was definitely prepared to get a lot of carries.”
Virginia got a drive rolling on the game’s opening possession. Jones did some good work as the Cavaliers picked up two quick first downs.
Parks reported to the huddle for the third series, and on second-and-5 from the Virginia 48, he broke a 20-yard run. But he fumbled when he was hit by William & Mary safety Brian Thompson.
Fortunately for Parks, receiver Tim Smith made the recovery, and the chains moved.
Second-year head coach Mike London stuck with Parks. He got the ball three straight times and churned for another first down. That helped Virginia get on the board first with a field goal.
Early in the second quarter, Parks made his first visit to the end zone since he scored the deciding TD in the fourth quarter of the 2009 3A state championship game. He capped an 80-yard drive with an 18-yard scoring burst.
“Our fullback made a great block, and I just made a pretty good read,” Parks said. “Then I saw the end zone, and I got that feeling I always get. I knew I couldn’t let anyone stop me from getting there.”
No one did. Parks’ first college TD was in the books.
He added two more scores in the third quarter, barreling in from the 1 and dashing in from the 26. By that point, Park’s unusual mixture of quickness, power, balance, want-to and vision had 51,956 fans at Scott Stadium buzzing.
It won’t be that easy most weeks, but it was a sturdy start for Parks and for a program seeking confidence. He was named Virginia’s Offensive Player of the Week, and the Richmond-Times Dispatch reported it was the best debut by a Virginia back in 40 years.
The always upbeat Parks dazzled a media swarm following the game and stayed humble, reminding everyone how he’d fumbled his first carry.
He praised his O-line, the rookie quarterback and the defense the same way he always deflected as much praise at possible after his electric nights at West.
But Saturday changed his life some. No doubt about that.
“A few hours after the game, I picked up my phone and there were 25 texts,” he said with a laugh. “I read those 25 — and there were 25 more. I knew I would never be able get back to everyone, so I just put it on Twitter, thanked everyone for their support.”
One of those texts was from Arkansas sophomore Chris Smith, who also shined on Saturday. It was a good weekend for West Rowan.
Virginia will play at Indiana this Saturday at 7 p.m.