Lee Evans put on a show for the ages this past Saturday, creating a buzz in Camp Randall that hadn’t been felt all season long. With the student section bowing to his abilities as he left the field, the entire college football community is left waiting to see what the senior will do for an encore next weekend.
“When you’re in the zone, you’re in the zone,” Evans said after his record-breaking performance. “I was able to make a lot of plays and put some points on the board.”
Evans made more than his fair share of big plays as the Badgers’ captain caught a career-high 10 passes for 258 yards and five touchdowns. Exhibiting the same chemistry he has had with quarterback Jim Sorgi throughout their playing time in Madison, Evans got on track early, catching four passes on the game’s first drive, including a nine-yard touchdown strike.
But that score was merely the beginning of a vintage Lee Evans’ performance in which he commanded the attention of the entire Spartan defense and the approval of Biletnikoff Award voters.
“When a guy’s catching passes and doing whatever he wants to do, going to the house, that’s the Lee Evans’ show right there,” Brandon Williams said of Evans showing. “Just throw it up to him, and he’s going to do something with it.”
With just under 5:00 left in the first half, Sorgi stepped up in the pocket and delivered a bomb to Evans as he jumped over a defender to make a fingertip catch before sprinting 30 yards into the end zone. The 75-yard score put UW up 21-0 and is reason enough to believe that Lee Evans is going to excel once his career at Wisconsin has ended.
“He’s done that before, and he’s going to do it in the future,” Sorgi said. “He’s going to do it in the last two games here and he’s going to do it when he gets to the NFL.”
Evans concluded a spectacular first half in style as he caught an 18-yard touchdown pass threaded between the Michigan State defense with 1:39 left. At times it appeared that as long as Evans’ hands were open, Sorgi was going to sling him the ball and Evans was going to make something special happen. With the score, Evans broke the school record for touchdowns in a season (12 by the game’s end) and touchdowns in a career (26 by the game’s end). He entered halftime with seven catches, for 161 yards and three touchdowns.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” junior wide receiver Darrin Charles said. “After today’s game and the experience that I felt just from all this energy and all these great plays made by our squad, it’s unbelievable.”
After halftime intermission, the Lee Evans’ show got back underway with a 70-yard touchdown catch midway through the third quarter that caught the attention of even the man throwing him the ball.
“The play when I knew it was going to be a special day was when he caught that hitch route and just took it 70 [yards] for a touchdown making a couple of people miss. I knew from that play on that we weren’t going to lose that ball game, and he was going to have a special day, and he was going to help me have a special day.”
It’s hard to surprise many people with anything that Lee Evans does on the field because the talent level and expectations are far beyond what most normal players ever dream of. But after his fifth touchdown catch of the game, even Lee Evans realized how special his day was.
“It was definitely special. I had a lot of fun out there and it is the best game I’ve played here,” he said. “It’s definitely an honor to be up there among the elite in school history.”
As the Badgers’ offensive unit came onto the field for their first possession of the fourth quarter it was expected that the starters would no longer play. Evans was prepared to stand along the sideline before word got down to the UW sideline and to head coach Barry Alvarez that Evans was just three yards shy of Al Toon’s Wisconsin single-game receiving-yards record. With one simple out pattern, Sorgi connected with Evans for a nine-yard completion, concluding the receiver’s record-setting day.
“Anyone who enjoys football should have enjoyed what Lee Evans did today,” offensive coordinator Brian White said. “Just the playmaking ability, the variety of catches, the tenacity and the complete play blocking downfield.”
Evans’ performance was truly one for the ages as he broke his own Wisconsin school records for receiving touchdowns in a game with five (previous record was three) and touchdowns in a season with 12 (previous record was nine). He also broke the school records for touchdowns in a career with 26 (previous record was 23 by Tony Simmons ’94-’97) and receiving yards in a game with 258 (previous record was 252 by Al Toon on Nov.12, 1983), while moving into third place on the Big Ten’s all-time receiving yardage list with 3,341 and tying the Big Ten record with five touchdown receptions in a game.
“It’s right there with any of Dayne’s rushing performances,” Alvarez said. “Lee’s just been a wonderful player for us and leader and someone that’s been an inspiration for our entire football team, and I couldn’t be more proud of anyone or more pleased for anyone for the hard work and what he’s gone through. To have a day like that, you don’t see that very often.”
Evans’ unselfish play throughout his career at Wisconsin was rewarded Saturday when he took over the football game and proved to NFL scouts that his knee won’t be an issue when he’s catching passes Sunday. For a man who has gone through so much and remained so loyal to one university, Lee Evans provided a performance that no witness is likely to forget.
“He’s an amazing person and an amazing football player,” coach White said. “I just hope this whole state and community really comes out to watch one of the finest football players to ever put a Wisconsin uniform on play his last home game … and he’ll put on another show.”