COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The only thing that stopped Mike Evans on Saturday was the clock.
Auburn's defenders did little to impede Texas A&M's sophomore receiver, who finished with a school-record 287 receiving yards and on 11 receptions. The receiving total broke a mark he set against Alabama earlier this season when he had 279 yards against the Crimson Tide, and was the third-best outing in SEC history, trailing only Arkansas' Cobi Hamilton (303 yards versus Rutgers in 2012) and LSU's Josh Reed (293 against Alabama in 2001).
It was all for naught, however, as Auburn walked out of Kyle Field with a 45-41 victory. Evans declined to meet with the press after the game, but what he wouldn't say, Gus Malzahn would.
Evans was so good Saturday, Auburn's head coach said his last timeout — with the Tigers leading 45-41 and only 43 seconds to play — was spent specifically to design a defense to stymie the 6-foot-5 Texas native.
"We just wanted to catch our breath," he said. "We kind of figured out what they were doing and we wanted to make sure the 'big guy' (Evans) didn't beat us. He's a phenomenal player and we just wanted to catch our breath and (get) our bearings and get a plan for the next couple of plays."
His own team was every bit as impressed with Evans' play.
"Mike, what can you say? As I said after the first game of the year, he's one of the better players in the country, and I think people are starting to realize that," Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said. "He's a big guy that has home-run ability, but will compete for the ball in any kind of traffic."
Jonathon Mincy can speak to that first-hand.
Auburn's junior cornerback was glued to Evans on the receiver's 33-yard touchdown catch — enough that Mincy earned a flag for pass interference on the play — but it didn't matter. Evans caught the ball, anyway.
Most of his yardage came in one-on-one coverage, but Mincy said they never changing things up.
"We didn’t have any bracket (coverage)," he said. "It was completely man-on-man, one-on-one coverage. So just trying to interrupt him in his routes and staying with him and trying to make a play on the ball."
While he wasn't pleased with the yardage, Mincy took some solace from the fact they kept him out of the end zone on Texas A&M's final drive.
"We know he made some big plays early in the game and we just had to tighten up on our coverage and rely on our D-line to get some pass rush on them," he said. " ... It finally worked out for us (on the Aggies' last possession)."
Smith steps up in Holsey's absence
Auburn was without starting strong safety Josh Holsey during Saturday's victory.
The sophomore's absence was reportedly due to a knee injury suffered during Thursday's practice. The news was first reported by AuburnUndercover.com on Saturday. A team source later confirmed this, and Holsey did not step off the bus during the team's Tiger Walk.
Malzahn didn't go into any detail on Holsey's injury following the game, other than calling it "a tough deal."
"This team, we played without a lot of our guys and our guys find a way and everybody steps up and they raise their level," he said. "We’re going the right direction right now and I like our team."
With Holsey out, Ryan Smith started at boundary safety. He made the most of the start, collecting six tackles (third-most on the team) and snagging his second career interception in the opening period.