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Fudge production melts as Wild struggles

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, April 9, 2011, at 12:07 a.m.
  • Updated Saturday, April 9, 2011, at 12:30 a.m.

Clearly, the little boy was in the know when it comes to Wichita Wild football.

After getting an autograph from Darius Fudge following last week's loss, the youngster asked the star running back a question that proved he follows the team closely.

"Hey, why'd you change numbers?"

Even though he was coming off another rough game, Fudge smiled, as he always does when dealing with fans, and explained that he now sports No. 7 because he wore it at Western Carolina.

The superstitious among the Wild fan base might wonder if the number switch is to blame for Fudge's lack of success this year.

The football savvy know the real reason: The Wild's lack of consistent play at quarterback has allowed opponents to key on Fudge, and the young offensive line simply hasn't responded.

The unit will have another chance to open up the much-needed holes tonight when the Wild (0-4) plays at the Omaha Beef (2-2) in an Indoor Football League game.

For some of the linemen, it might be their last chance.

"I hope these kids grow up because I'm about at the end of my patience," coach Ken Matous said. "It's time to man up and do their job or I'll start looking elsewhere.

"I'm very concerned with the offensive line because we've got the best running back in the league and we can only get him 25 yards a game and a small number of touchdowns. Someone's gonna have to start being accountable for it."

A two-time all-league player, Fudge led the IFL in touchdowns last season with 26 and was third in rushing yards with 647. The 6-foot, 200-pound workhorse was a key factor in the team's march to the conference title game for the second straight year.

This season, he is averaging 24 yards a game on a measly 3.1 yards per carry, and he has found the end zone just twice.

"It's frustrating, and it makes it worse because we're not winning games," Fudge said. "It all comes down to execution. When they take away the run, we have to make them pay in the passing game. We're doing it some in spurts, but it's like we keep shooting ourselves in the foot."

Matous was thrilled that center Greg Nicks decided to rejoin the team, but he was knocked out of the game on the opening snap in last week's loss to West Texas. Nicks is out for the season with a neck injury — a loss that Matous described as "deflating."

So tonight, Fort Hays State product Antwome Topps (6-5, 315) and Andrew Deitrich (6-2, 310) will rotate at center and guard. Wes Yarbough (6-6, 320), also from Fort Hays State, will occupy the other guard spot.

Matous stressed that Fudge hasn't lost any of his abilities. If the holes are there, Matous said, Fudge will hit them.

"Let me tell you, Darius Fudge is playing as good as he ever has," Matous said.

Notes — Brandon Walker and Shane Mascarenas will both see time at quarterback tonight, Matous said. Projected starter Alex Rouse, injured in the season opener, is practicing and could be ready to play next week.... Matous is high on newly signed Xavier Jordan, who will start at linebacker. "He's a big, athletic kid, and I hope he shows up and makes a bunch of plays," Matous said.... Matous thinks that former Kansas standout Jake Sharp is on the verge of a big game. Sharp was open several times last week but Walker never found him.

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