From a couple of position switched to a broken bone on his left hand, it had every intention of being a lost season for the junior college signee. But instead of riding the bench, McEvoy has found his niche in Wisconsin's defensive backfield, providing an intimidating target that continues to yield dividends for the Badgers.
"That transition can be extremely difficult," said senior linebacker Chris Borland of McEvoy, who turned in another solid, steady performance inNo.21 Wisconsin's 27-17 victory over BYU. "He's a graceful and natural athlete. So he's made it look easy, but it's not. It's been a great tool for us to have more depth back there and he made plays. It's amazing that just a few months ago he wasn't playing the position."
After losing out on the quarterback race following the second scrimmage, McEvoy was expected to be used in some packages at a wide receiver, but that idea was nixed after he broke the scaphoid, a small bone at the base of his left thumb, and had to have surgery to insert a screw to make sure the bone set properly.
So instead of catching passes, McEvoy, and his cast, switched to safety to provide some athletic ability to the position. Since seeing his first action in the Big Ten opener against Purdue, McEvoy has slowly found comfort at the position, which continued with a gift-wrapped interception on BYU's second offensive series.
"It was a nice one to pick off," McEvoy said. "He threw it at me so I was happy with that I didn't have to do too much to get it."
McEvoy's interception fell into his lap after Borland pressured quarterback Taysom Hill, returning it 20 yards. McEvoy finished the game with a career-high five tackles, one for loss, and a pass break up.
"I always felt pretty comfortable," said McEvoy. "Each day everyone gets more comfortable with what they're doing. I came to the position a little late but each day I'm getting a little more comfortable, but obviously today was a great day for all of us and I had a great day, so I was happy with the way things turned out."
Although he is happy to be playing safety and helping Wisconsin earn victories, McEvoy still sees himself as a quarterback in the future.
"This is the only year that really matters," said McEvoy. "I'm going to stick to that (safety) and keep doing what is asked of me and take it day by day."
After missing last week's game against Iowa due to family and personal reasons, senior defensive end Tyler Dippel returned to the lineup, and provided a spark for his teammates. "Dippel gave us a great pump-up speech; one of the best pump up speeches I've ever heard," senior Brendan Kelly said. "He called up the whole team offense and defense and he said play for the ones who you truly love. He mentioned some things that happened to him through the course of the last couple of weeks, and I think it was a big motivating factor for all of us to play for him and to play for the ones we love."
Senior defensive end Pat Muldoon, one of Dippel's best friends, flew out to California on Wednesday to spend time with Dippel and bring him a sketch of Wisconsin's defensive game plan. On the flight to Madison Friday afternoon, Muldoon was able to help Dippel catch up on this week's game plan.
"It was good to teach him what we had gone through," Muldoon said. "He wanted to play and everyone else wanted him to play."
Kicking Game Finds Success
In two seasons at Wisconsin, Jack Russell's field goal attempts have gone every which way but in. He came close against Iowa when he made a 54-yard kick, only to realize the attempt did count due the first of three consecutive timeouts called by the Hawkeyes' bench.
Maybe that's why Russell looked so elated after going a perfect 2-for-2 on his field goal attempts, making kicks from 38 and 26 yards to improve to 2-for-6 in his career.
"It felt really good, couldn't take the smile off my face after the first one went through," Russell said. "Felt like I couldn't miss today after the first one went good."
With the field goal unit having been a lightning rod for criticism this season, there was a collective sigh of relief after it appears Wisconsin has gotten over a hump.
"I'm proud of those crew of specialists," Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said. "They're having some success. It's good to see. It's fun to see it. It's fun to see the support they have of each other. Kyle's out there supporting Jack now, and they're all working as a unit. Good for them. It's good to see."
Extra Points: UW has now won 29 consecutive home games against nonconference opponents, dating back to Sept. 13, 2003. That is the second-longest active streak in the FBS, trailing only LSU (40) … The Badgers improved to 5-0 at home this season and have outscored their five opponents by a combined score of 196-33 … Senior RB James White scored three touchdowns today, his fifth career game with at least three TDs. He now has 46 career touchdowns, which ties him with Billy Marek behind only Montee Ball (83) and Ron Dayne (71) on Wisconsin's all-time list … Sophomore S Michael Caputo recorded a career-high 12 tackles. His previous career-best mark was 10 at Arizona State on Sept. 14, 2013.