RB Williams steps up in Hen win over Lafayette

Sophomore Kareem Williams had a game-high 93 yards on 14 carries in Saturday night’s win over Lafayette. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

Sophomore Kareem Williams had a game-high 93 yards on 14 carries in Saturday night’s win over Lafayette. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

NEWARK — Kareem Williams didn’t even know Wes Hills was hurt, let alone done for the season.

It wasn’t until later, when Hills wasn’t at Delaware’s football film session, that Williams even realized that something was up.

“Wes never misses a meeting,” said Williams. “He’ll never be late or anything. At the end of the day, Coach called me in his office and said Wes is hurt.

“It was a big surprise to me, to be honest with you.”

The foot injury that Hills suffered in a season-opening loss to Jacksonville ended the standout running back’s season. But it also completely changed Williams’ fall.

A sophomore who saw playing time last year, Williams had been planning to redshirt because the Blue Hens had a logjam of running backs.

But not only did Williams play in Delaware’s 19-9 victory over Lafayette on Saturday night, he ended up running for a career-high 93 yards on 14 carries.

The Hens (1-1) will probably need another big game from the youngster when they play at sixth-ranked Villanova (1-1) on Saturday at noon (CSN-TV).
Williams had been named the Hens’ scout team Player of the Week the week before.

“He had done everything we asked him to do,” said coach Dave Brock. “When his opportunity pops up, he was ready. He put his full attention toward Lafayette and helping us win — and he certainly went out and did it in the game. Which comes as no surprise to us . … we felt like he played like he’s capable of playing.”

The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Williams knew since spring that he was probably going to redshirt this season.

After getting 24 carries for 139 yards a year ago as a true freshman, Williams was willing to wait if it meant the chance to get more playing time. He’s still the backup to junior Jalen Randolph, with redshirt freshman Thomas Jefferson also getting some carries.

“The thing is, we all could start somewhere,” said Williams. “It still is very competetive. We all want reps. On the field, all of us practice hard. You’ll never see any of us take a break.

“You’ll never see any of us take a play off, that’s the big thing.”

Delaware has never doubted Williams’ ability. His brother, Andre, broke the Boston College career rushing record, was a Heisman Trophy finalist and was the New York Giants’ leading rusher last fall.

Brock and offensive coordinator Sean Devine were both assistants at Boston College early in Williams’ career then.

Even though Williams broke his brother’s rushing records at Parkland (Pa.) High, Kareem still had trouble making a name for himself.

“It was still the same thing — I was in his shadow,” said Kareem. “It used to bother me in high school but now it doesn’t bother me too much anymore.”

Walker has ups and downs

Not surprisingly, the game film showed quarterback Joe Walker was inconsistent in his first career start.

The redshirt freshman is slated to start again against Villanova. He’s in position to be the program’s first freshman QB to be the main starter for a whole season since Bill Vergantino in 1989.

“I think the really positive takeaways are that he handled it,” said Brock. “He didn’t put the ball in jeopardy. He was able to make something out of nothing when we didn’t have something in the passing game. He was a very effective runner.

“He has the ability to create plays when there might not be a play there. For who we are right now offensively, that’s going to be a very valuable characteristic.”

Walker ran for 68 yards and the game’s only touchdown on 11 carries. But he completed just 4-of-15 passes for 58 yards in a contest that was played in a heavy rain at times.

“He missed a couple throws that he needs to make,” said Brock. “He knows that. I don’t know that that’s necessarily unexpected. At practice, he’s missed them. We’ve got to continue to work on that.

“We have to catch the catchable balls. Two of the balls we dropped would have been, for sure, conversions on third down and one might have been a touchdown.”

Overall, Brock said he likes the way Walker competes. He hopes the rest of the youngster’s game edevelops quickly.

Brock said Walker did a good job engineering a pair of drives that ended in field goals in the final seven minutes.

“He handled the management part of the game better than I thought he would,” said Brock. “He did a great job at the end of the game. … I’m thrilled with him from a potential standpoint. I think he’s going to be an elite player. We hope he’s going to be an elite player on Saturday at 12 o’clock.”

Nichols getting it done

Considering he was in for only about 22 plays, it was fairly impressive that defensive lineman Bilal Nichols ended up with eight tackles.

The former Hodgson All-Stater also forced a fumble that teammate Vince Hollerman recovered at the Lafayette two.

Nichols said the competition for playing time on the defensive front makes everyone work a little harder.

“When you’ve got the man next to you trying his best, it’s going to naturally make you want to do the best you can, too,” said Nichols. “It’s definitely very competitive.

“No matter how many snaps I get, I just try to do the best I can. It doesn’t matter if I’m getting 20, five or 40 — just go hard every play, as hard as you can. As long as I play hard and we win, it doesn’t really matter to me.”

Extra points

Redshirt freshman kicker Frank Raggo tied a school record with his four field goals against Lafayette. That was also the most ever made by a UD freshman. … Saturday will be the Hens’ first game in Villanova Stadium since 2009. The Wildcats’ last two home games in the series were played in PPL Park in Chester, Pa. … Villanova is the only Colonial Athletic Assocition foe that has won five straight games over the Hens (2006-10).

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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