After a long wait, Lee Evans has returned…but is he the player he used to be? That question was asked again and again before this season began. Saturday's spectacular performance against Akron proved that Evans is back, and perhaps better than ever.
Evans helped lead the Badgers to a 48-31 victory over the potent Zips with nine catches, 214 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Of the two touchdowns, Evans had a 99-yard reception which is the longest in school history and ties a Big Ten record. If there were any doubts of his return to his former status, the record breaking touchdown that broke the backs of the upstart Zips showed that he is definitely on the up end of his game.
Unfortunately for the Badgers, the second half was all about Akron. With Charlie Frye completing 31 of 49 passes throughout the game, the Badgers had a tough time staying ahead. The momentum was in Akron's favor for the whole half. Evans touchdown reception, coupled with the goal line stand one play before, changed that in a matter of moments. This put the momentum back on the Badgers side, got the crowd back into the game, and fueled the fire for victory.
Though the team really pulled together within the last few minutes of the tense fourth quarter, Evans's 99-yard touchdown essentially won the game for the Badgers. Without this key play, who knows how coach Barry Alvarez's team would have responded with their backs to the wall. There is no telling how many more passes Frye would have completed.
It has been a while since Evans has been able to play at Camp Randall, in front of his Badger fans. Though he was missing from action last year, he has played like he never left. It was fitting that he scored his first touchdown at Camp Randall this year in front of the thunderous student section.
"Scoring a touchdown right in front of the student section was great even though they flagged me on it," Evans said. "It was still fun."
To acknowledge the sea of students, Evans harmlessly pointed at the crowd, but then was issued a penalty for excessive celebration.
"They showed me so much love and appreciation I thought I would show a little back," commented Evans.
His return to old form provides the Badgers with much needed leadership.
"I think Lee really brings a lot of confidence to our team," Alvarez said. "He has been through a lot and I think our players really respect him and how hard he works and what he has been through."
After the Akron game, Alvarez is confident that Evans is back at full strength and getting stronger as the season goes on.
"I thought he got stronger in the fourth quarter last week and he picked up right where he left off," Alvarez said. "Lee is big time. I don't think I'll have to answer anymore questions about do you feel like Lee is at full strength or back to where he was."
The only one who will know for sure if he is back to 100 percent is Evans himself, but at this point he doesn't think it's a question for him to answer.
"When you look at the film there are some things you can see and some things that you don't," Evans said. "People will be able to assess it and determine it."
Thus far, Evans return has been very smooth. With a solid seven catches for 70 yards and one touchdown in the opener against West Virginia, and the amazing performance against Akron, there is every indication he will continue to put up spectacular numbers for the remainder of the season.