April 23, 2024

Iowa’s Joe Evans leaves lasting impression after epic performance

Iowa Hawkeyes Football

Iowa edge rushers Max Llewellyn (48) and Joe Evans (13) sack Tennessee quarterback Nico Iamaleava during the first quarter of the Cheez-It Citrus Bowl Monday January 1, 2024 at Camping World Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

ORLANDO, Fla. — The veteran Hawkeye was the heart and soul of the defense throughout the season, and cemented his legacy with a career day in the Cheez-It Citrus Bowl.

Joe Evans looked like a man among boys in the trenches, and was basically unblockable against Tennessee. It’s hard to argue against that when Evans tallied a career-high, four sacks in the 35-0 loss Monday. Although it wasn’t the way he wanted to end his career at Iowa, Evans is proud of his teammates.

In his eyes, the final score didn’t reflect how hard the defense played. The stats were a head-scratcher to many Iowa fans, considering the defense allowed 232 rushing yards. It didn’t help that turnovers from quarterback Deacon Hill put the defense in tough situations. At the end of the day the defense was on the field for 74 plays, and looked fatigued in the second half. Evans understands that made a tremendous impact on him and his teammates.

“I think we could have, honestly, handled their tempo better, we tried to emulate that in practice, but it is a tough thing to do,” Evans said. “When they are getting a play off every 10 seconds, every 15 seconds, definitely think that we could have done a better job of that, and stopping the run.”

Evans did everything he possibly could, but it wasn’t enough. That doesn’t mean the Hawkeyes didn’t try to make adjustments. As a leader Evans takes some accountability on the lack of execution by the defense. After all, the Hawkeyes pride themselves on stopping the run and tackling. Not to mention Iowa (10-4) didn’t force any turnovers on defense against Tennessee.

“We were playing with a light box, but I think we could have done a better job there,” he said. “From my standpoint and the defensive line, just playing better with our hands the fundamentals and stuff.”

Everyone thought Iowa’s defense had the advantage going against Tennessee’s true freshman quarterback Nico Iamaleava. However, Iamaleava’s mobility was a problem for the Hawkeyes all game long, and that kept them guessing.

“Yeah, he definitely presented a lot of challenges,” the team captain said. “When you talk about you have to defend two facets, whether it be in the passing game or in the running game, it is definitely a lot tougher, and he is a very mobile guy, and you were able to see that today.”

Regardless of the loss, Evans is proud of what the team accomplished this season. A 10-win campaign, and being Big Ten West Champs will always bring a smile to his face. As a matter of fact, the edge rusher has been part of three 10-win seasons in the past five years. Evans also capped off this season with third-team, All-Big Ten honors.

The Ames native put together some solid stats in his career that should draw some NFL interest. Evans’ numbers speak for themselves, with 135 tackles, including 35 for loss and 28 sacks. Hawkeye fans are going to remember him for being a true leader, with a lot of passion for the game, and a class act on and off the field.

Coach Kirk Ferentz appreciates the blood, sweat and tears Evans put into the program over the years. Which is why he wants Evans and the rest of the seniors to hold their heads high because they’ve been successful, and are winners in life.

“It has been a great, great group of guys, and Joe is representative of that, stayed for his sixth year, just hard-working guys that really care about the right things,” Ferentz said. “They have been great teammates, and then these guys have been great, great leaders.”

Bottom line, Evans officially cemented his name in Hawkeye lore, and his performance against the Volunteers is proof.