Thursday, December 14, 2017
Sports

Hokies' Jerod Evans happy as 'other' QB in ACC title game

One of the quarterbacks in the ACC Championship game has already broken records for touchdown passes and total yards in a season at his school. The other one is Clemson's Heisman Trophy contender, Deshaun Watson.

Virginia Tech's Jerod Evans is just fine with being the "other" quarterback this week.

Evans said he is not going to get caught up in all the hoopla heading into Saturday night's game in Orlando, Florida. While Watson is making a late-season surge that has enhanced his Heisman hopes, and the Tigers' playoff chances, Evans just wants to focus on giving his team its best chance to win.

"I'm not paying attention to all the hype or all the media attention," Evans said. "... I'll get my chance, and when I do, I've just got to make the most if it. It is what it is. I'm not focused on that. Once I get my chance, I think people will see, but right now I'm thinking about me and my team and what we can do to win this game."

Watson, a Heisman finalist last year when he led the Tigers to the national championship game, is expected to be a finalist again this year. He has thrown for 34 touchdowns with 14 interceptions and run for four more.

Evans stacks up pretty well statistically with Watson. The Hokies quarterback has thrown for 26 touchdowns with just five interceptions and run for eight more.

That may surprise some, but not Watson or Tigers linebacker Ben Boulware.

"He's a very great competitor, outstanding athlete, great leader, and great quarterback," Watson said, noting he's watched the Hokies on television, including their game against Pittsburgh when Evans tweaked his ankle, sat out a few plays and then returned. "He can make all the throws. He can make any run. He's a hard worker, and regardless if he's banged up or not, he's going to go out there and be able to play for his team and do great things."

Boulware suspects that going against Watson in practice is good preparation for facing Evans, although Evans is bigger and a more significant part of the Hokies' running game than Watson is for the Tigers. Evans leads Virginia Tech with 713 rushing yards and a long of 55 yards.

"I think he's very similar to Deshaun in their approach to the game. I think he might be a little bit heavier than Deshaun," Boulware said. "He's definitely a bigger body, packing a little more pounds than Deshaun, but I think they're very similar in their game, how they're able to throw the ball and also incorporate it into the run game."

Evans arrived at Virginia Tech during the transition from Frank Beamer to Justin Fuente last December, and had been recruited by Fuente at Memphis. He also was familiar with the up-tempo offense favored by the Hokies new coach, and came with gaudy statistics from his year at Trinity Valley Community College in Texas: In eight games, Evans threw for 38 touchdowns, was intercepted just three times, and he also ran for more than 400 yards and four TDs.

Defensive end Ken Ekanem acknowledges that he, and surely many others, were curious to see how Evans would adapt to a significant step up in competition. Ekanem said that any concerns he had were eliminated in the spring.

"We saw a lot of promise in him in his time here before he won the job," Ekanem said. "You know, he's made a really good transition from JUCO to FBS football. Couldn't be more proud of him and the season he's having."

Boulware, like Watson, expects the Tigers will have their hands full on Saturday night.

"Just a guy that wants to win, that will do anything possible for his team, his program and university and that will put his body and sacrifice his body on the line for the betterment of his team," the linebacker said, "so you definitely respect that for him as a player and as a leader. He'll do anything possible to get a win."

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