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With dominant finish, Epenesa mulls future

With dominant finish, Epenesa mulls future

Illinois Iowa Football

Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa (94) tackles running back Reggie Corbin during a recent game. Epenesa said he has yet to think about whether or not to enter the NFL draft this spring.

No matter what the future holds, A.J. Epenesa is finishing his junior season on the Iowa football team on his own terms.

He was dominant in the 18th-ranked Hawkeyes’ 27-24 win at Nebraska on Friday, leading the 6-foot-6, 280-pound end to be recognized as the Big Ten defensive player of the week for the second time in three weeks.

Epenesa established a career high with 14 tackles against the Cornhuskers, including nine solo stops. He also had two sacks and 4.5 tackles for a loss in the win.

“I was around the ball all the time,’’ Epenesa said. “That’s something I’ve wanted to do all season long. I had an opportunity to do that tonight.’’

Epenesa was one of two Hawkeyes to receive weekly Big Ten honors on Monday.

Kicker Keith Duncan was named the league’s special teams player of the week for the second straight week.

Duncan hit field goals of 49 and 48 yards against Nebraska, the latter a game-winning kick with 1 second remaining to give Iowa its fifth straight win in the series.

Epenesa’s work against Nebraska included a third-down sack that ended the Cornhuskers’ next-to-last drive and a tackle that helped stall the final drive.

It extended a strong finish to the regular season that includes recording six of his team-leading nine sacks in Iowa’s final five games.

Epenesa, who also leads Iowa with nine quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles, has played at a level where he knows he will have a decision to make about his future.

But, Epenesa said he is no rush at this point to reach any conclusion about whether he will use his final year of eligibility or enter the NFL draft.

“I haven’t thought about that process,’’ he said. “I’ll look into that process later on after the bowl game.’’


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