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IU football: Running back Stephen Carr “a great fit” for Tom Allen’s LEO culture

Indiana running back Stephen Carr won Tom Allen’s LEO award on Saturday morning for his efforts exemplifying the team’s selfless team before the individual “Love Each Other” mantra.

It was easy to see why in his brief three minute post-game press conference after IU’s 33-31 win over Western Kentucky.

“Michael Penix played amazing,” Carr said.  “Baller, baller.

“The offensive line did what they needed to do.

“Our OC was calling great plays, great protections.

“Tim (Baldwin) is a baller.  He deserves to be in the game just like I do. Everybody eats.”

A California native, Carr transferred to IU from USC after playing four seasons for the Trojans in Los Angeles.  On the surface, his reason for coming to Bloomington sounded like the inverse of LEO, a player more focused on himself than the team.

“I think this gives me an opportunity to focus on myself and learn a lot about myself,” Carr said in June when asked why he left his dream school USC for the Midwest.

But Carr’s thought process was more about soul-searching than selfish tendencies.  Could the former five-star recruit take himself away from all of the distractions at home, pull it all together, and realize his immense potential in one final season of college football?

He is certainly getting the opportunity at IU.

Carr already has more carries (87) in a season than he ever saw in four campaigns at USC, and he needs just 61 yards to top his best ever single season rushing total of 396 in 2019.  He collected his second 100-yard game of the season after not having reached that mark since a game on Sept. 9, 2017 against Stanford.

On Saturday night, Carr tallied 109 yards on 25 carries (4.4 average) and two rushing scores.  The multi-score effort marked his first since Aug. 31, 2019 against Fresno State (one rushing, one receiving). The game was also the first time he tallied two rushing touchdowns in a contest since Sept. 2, 2017 against Western Michigan.

“He does run hard, he does really make people miss, and he brings a different dimension to our team,” head coach Tom Allen said on Saturday night. “He went over 100 yards tonight and two touchdowns. He’s a special running back and he’s a big reason why we won the game.”

Carr could easily be a bit frustrated with the lack of gaping holes from a work-in-process offensive line, or miscues by his quarterback against Iowa and Cincinnati that have taken him and his teammates out of the spotlight a bit a third of the way into the season.

But instead, quarterback Michael Penix, Jr. sees a running back who is continuing to work hard and make plays even when his teammates make mistakes.  And Penix was happy to saw that “different dimension” Carr brings on Saturday.

“Sometimes I have a read, and today I missed the read but he made me right,” Penix said.  “He shook the guy in the backfield and got positive yards.

“He’s a guy that works extremely hard in practice.  He shows it every day. When he first got here we were doing scrimmages and stuff in the summer and showed that in the scrimmages.”

Carr is averaging just 3.9 yards per carry to this point for Indiana, well below his 4.7 career average.  A very capable receiver out of the backfield, he has just five receptions through four games.

If this is his final NFL showcase, there is no doubt Carr would be better served by wider running lanes and more open field opportunities.

But Carr is optimistic about this still young season.  He says he is starting to gel with his line and tight ends, and he has compliments and gratitude for everyone.

And his head coach has noticed.

“He’s just got an amazing attitude,” Allen said. “All week long he was encouraging guys, challenged them, and just being a leader. He’s worked extremely hard. He’s a tough kid. He cares and he’s got great personality. He’s just got a great heart. He cares about people and not about himself, and so he’s a great fit for us.”

UP NEXT:  Carr and the Hoosiers will be back in the spotlight when they travel to No. 4 Penn State for a Saturday night contest.  The game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. Eastern and will be televised on ABC.

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