Saturday's Badger performance against Michigan State was not only a much needed 56-21 rout, but a day that will be remembered for Wisconsin football and senior wide receiver Lee Evans, as he shattered multiple team and Big Ten records.
Evans left the Spartan defense in the dust as he caught 10 passes for 258 yards and racked up five touchdowns. His "simpLee amazing" performance helped him make history as he is now:
· Wisconsin's all-time leader for receiving touchdowns in a season (12), receiving touchdowns in a career (26) and receiving touchdowns in a game.
· Wisconsin's all-time leader for receiving yards in a game (258).
· Tied for the Big Ten record of receiving touchdowns in a game (5).
· Third in Big Ten history for all-time receiving yards (3,341).
Evans' performance left many in awe, including his teammates and coaches.
"I think it was outstanding," junior wide receiver Darrin Charles said. "It was unbelievable. To think a guy could take over a game just like that. . . It is not like he hasn't been doing it for a couple of years now. It is great. It is something that (Lee) deserved and something the team needed."
"It was a spectacular performance as I've ever seen a wide receiver have," offensive coordinator Brian White said. "Just the variety of catches, balls over the top, below your shoelaces, it was just spectacular. If any fan left that stadium and did not know they just witnessed something pretty remarkable and really a once in a lifetime performance, they really missed out on a lot."
As White commented, Evans was in a different situation for each of his five touchdowns.
His first touchdown came during the opening drive. Senior quarterback Jim Sorgi had already completed three passes to Evans during the first six plays. On the ninth play of the drive, Sorgi executed a play-action fake and rolled slightly to his left. Evans, who came in motion prior to the snap, ran a drag route through the middle of the end zone, gaining separation just beyond the far hash, where Sorgi hit him for the nine-yard score.
Evans found his second touchdown during the fourth drive of the second quarter. Sorgi came out on Wisconsin's 25-yard line looking for receiver Brandon Williams on a deep out to the offensive left side but found the sophomore well covered. Sorgi looked back to Evans, who had gotten behind two defenders on a post route. Sorgi through the pass a little short, but Evans leapt up and snagged it over a safety then sprinted downfield for a 75-yard touchdown.
Wisconsin did not have to wait long for another touchdown as Evans found his third during the next drive. The offense was in prime position for another touchdown at the Spartans' 18-yard line. On second-and-seven Sorgi saw Evans open in the end zone after running a skinny post.
The third quarter brought about his final two touchdowns and again they were on back-to-back drives. His fourth came during the first play of the second drive. Sorgi tossed Evans a short pass which was caught after about five yards. Evans made his move to split between sophomore cornerback Darren Barnett and freshman safety Greg Cooper. With the defense fooled he sprinted another 75 yards down the field for the score.
The final of the five came during the next drive. Evans lined up and ran straight into the end zone where he and Sorgi connected on another 18-yard pass. Cooper and sophomore cornerback Ashton Watson were way too late on the coverage and found themselves burned as Evans caught the pass to help the Badgers go up 42-14.
A big part of Evans' milestone performance was because of the defense the Spartans brought to the table. They came out with man-to-man coverage and found that it was not enough to hold him.
"I think it just comes down to the scheme that they have," Evans said. "They play man-to-man and if I can beat man-to-man then I'll be successful. Every time I play them I've been able to do that."
Evans has established himself many times throughout the years but his work today ranks with the Badger greats.
"It's right there with any of Ron Dayne's big time rushing performances," coach Barry Alvarez said. "Lee's just been a wonderful player for us, a leader and someone that has been an inspiration for our entire football team. I couldn't be more proud of anyone in how he performed today or more pleased for anyone. For the hard work, what he's gone through, to have a day like that you know you don't see that very often by receivers."
Unfortunately for Wisconsin he will only have two more games to grace the field in Cardinal and White. His presence will be missed in future seasons but this game will be a constant reminder of what he did for the program.
"It's definitely an honor," Evans said. "Especially with some the people that have held these records in the past. It's definitely an honor to be up there among the elite in school history. Even after I leave here, to still have your name around. Just that aura, that feeling that you have done something. It's definitely special and the group of guys that I'm with, it's just a tremendous feeling to be able to share it with them as well."