CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Kevin Parks flashes a sly smile like he hopes it will answer the question on its own.
The Virginia tailback and North Carolina native is going home with a bit of an attitude this weekend when the struggling Cavaliers (2-3, 0-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) face surprising Duke (4-1, 1-0).
The 5-foot-8 Parks played high school ball less than two hours from the Research Triangle, and said coaches in his home state told him he was too small to play football at the major college level.
"I see Carolina games or N.C. State and I circle those game because there's a little more motivation on my back," the second team sophomore said this week. "Everybody said I'm too small so, motivation."
Parks leads the Cavaliers in rushing with 272 yards, including a 49-yard burst, and has scored two touchdowns, giving him 11 and 18 college games. He's also caught 12 passes for 95 yards.
The Cavaliers will take a boost anywhere they can get it. They have lost three straight and are also likely to make a change at quarterback with Alabama transfer Phillip Sims taking over as the starter.
Sims has thrown five touchdown passes without being intercepted playing behind Michael Rocco, and nearly led Virginia back from a 20-point deficit last weekend in a 44-38 loss to Louisiana Tech.
Virginia's chance at getting the ball back in the closing minutes was scuttled by a penalty that gave the Bulldogs a first down, the last of 16 penalties for 145 yards for the Cavaliers in the game.
Parks was responsible for one of several personal foul calls, and was disappointed in himself.
"We just gotta be a little bit more smarter about what we do. I hold myself accountable because I was one of those persons to get a flag late," he said off the foul in the red zone. "I just made a bonehead decision at that time because I was a little frustrated. We still got points out of it. It was three points but maybe could have been a touchdown. It may have been the difference in the ballgame."
Tha Cavaliers lost despite piling up 625 yards of offense, and showed signs of getting their running game untracked with 145 yards. Starter Perry Jones ran for 82, and Parks picked up another 60.
He'd like nothing better than to help the ground game take off this weekend.
"We still believe there's nothing wrong with our running game," he said. "We've just got to be a little bit more decisive, make more great reads, make great blocks when we have to so the quarterback can throw, help out the blocking game, catch the ball when we need to and do all those little things right."
Getting enough tickets for all the family and friends that will make the trip to Durham, N.C., "can be a little bit stressful," Parks said, "but I don't look at it like that. It's all fun for me."
Teammate Adrian Gamble, who caught his first touchdown pass against the Bulldogs in the Sims-led rally, also is going home, and hopes the scoring grab was the start of an increased role in the offense.
He's known for spectacular catches in practice, and wants to bring that to the games.
"I feel like the more opportunities I get and the better I take advantage of the opportunities, I feel like coach Lazor and coach London will start to trust in me more," the freshman from Charlotte said.
Duke has won three straight led by quarterback Sean Renfree, who is completing 72 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns. He's listed as questionable this week with a right elbow injury, so both teams may have new faces taking the opening snaps at quarterback. For Duke, that would be Anthony Boone, who finished the game last weekend.
No worries, coach David Cutcliffe said, comparing Boone's situation to what Sims faces.
"We have an offensive system. Anthony Boone has been taking the number two reps all fall camp, all during the season to this point," Cutcliffe said. "We're running the same offense."
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