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Akayleb Evans Savors 1st Stadium SKOL Chant, Packs a Punch

MINNEAPOLIS — For some players, the jitters go away with the first hit of a football game.

For Vikings rookie cornerback Akayleb Evans, it was the sights and reverberating sounds of the first SKOL Chant at U.S. Bank Stadium on Saturday.

"It was great. Everybody knows I'm active on Twitter and love engaging with fans, so just to have a [home] debut, I was really ready for it," Evans said. "I'm excited we were able to bring the energy that we did, even though it didn't end up the way we wanted it to. We're always going to have the energy. That's the expectation and the standard, so we can expect that from here on out."

Evans did plenty of hitting, by the way, in a 17-7 Vikings loss to the 49ers.

According to the press box tally, Evans led all players with nine tackles. His night included a tackle for loss to end San Francisco's first possession of the game with a failed run on fourth-and-1 from the Minnesota 39.

Evans credited communication with safety Lewis Cine, Minnesota's first-round pick who started his second game in a row, with helping on the play.

"He was telling me, 'Get down, get down,' because he was expecting the run, so a shout out to him and us communicating," Evans said. "When it happened, I was ready for it."

Evans wasn't shy in run support.

"My mentality has always been to attack the ball. It doesn't matter who is out there running it, just be aggressive," Evans said. "That's been my mindset my whole time playing football, and that's what a lot of teams liked about me. The Vikings liked that about me, and I feel like that's one of the reasons I got picked here. That's always going to be my mindset in every game."

The fourth-round pick out of Missouri started along with second-round draft pick Andrew Booth, Jr., who left the game with an ankle injury in the second quarter.

"It was tough [to see] Andrew dealing with his injury, but everybody is 'next man up.' We were all ready. Everybody has to be prepared, no matter what," Evans said. "You never know what's going to happen, so I think we did that and will continue to do that."

Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell said the injury to Booth occurred to the same ankle "he's kind of dealt with."

"It sounds like it's a positive thing from a standpoint of just an aggravation of an injury that we know about already," O'Connell said. "He's worked his way through that throughout camp and then ultimately, what it'll be is just how that thing looks the rest of the week, early on in the week, would love to still get him some work throughout this week as we continue to prep."

Evans nearly delivered another momentum-changing play late in the fourth quarter when he punched the ball away from receiver Marcus Johnson at the end of a catch in the red zone.

"I thought that punch-out would have been big, kind of like [Myles] Dorn's hit against the Raiders late last week," O'Connell said. "Had we gotten that one, maybe we're able to put together a drive there and go try to tie it or go for 2 and win that thing.

"I think across the board [Evans] is such a talented player for us to continue to wrap our arms around and try to develop on a daily basis," O'Connell added. "We want to get him a lot of reps. There was a reason he was out there. I'm sure there will be a lot for him to correct fundamentally or with his eyes or just situationally understanding how we can tighten up in certain spots, but I thought he was a willing tackler. They were running the ball hard in the second half, and guys were showing up and trying to throw their hat in there a little bit."

San Francisco offensive lineman Jordan Mills recovered the ball at the Minnesota 4, and the 49ers added a short field goal two snaps and a delay-of-game penalty later with 4:09 remaining.

"We practice that a lot. Every day in practice we focus on turnovers, so when the opportunity was there, I was just focused on a non-aggressive angle punch-out and it was there, so I took the shot and it came out," Evans said. "I wish we would have recovered it, but it will come."