Mike Evans’ 95-yard touchdown reception against Alabama on Saturday will go down as one of the most spectacular plays in Texas A&M football history.
But consider that A&M’s offensive coaches weren’t expecting that particular result against Alabama.
Offensive coordinator Clarence McKinney said Tuesday that Evans was Manziel’s third option on the play, as A&M desperately tried to close a two-touchdown gap against the Crimson Tide. Manziel first looked to his left, then noticed that Evans had single coverage about 35 yards downfield. Evans made the catch, then stiff-armed the Crimson Tide defensive back out of his way.
“In Johnny’s mind, Mike is the only option,” McKinney said Tuesday.
As A&M prepares for a home game against Southern Methodist, opposing defenses are starting to realize that Manziel-Evans might be the most intimidating passing combo in the country.
Coincidentally, Evans was supposed to be the intended receiver earlier in the game when Manziel pulled off what has now become one of his signature moves.
One Alabama defender nearly had Manziel for a sack, grabbing the quarterback by his jersey. But Manziel spun away and kept dropping back until he was 25 yards behind the line of scrimmage. He threw the ball up for grabs toward a group of A&M receivers and Tide defenders. It was a basic tip drill seen mostly at the end of the first half or on a desperate final play of the game.
Manziel was hoping Evans would pull it down. Instead, it was Edward Pope who was credited with the 12-yard catch.
Coach Kevin Sumlin said the play was reckless, but that Manziel had an explanation. The quarterback told the coach “it would’ve been as good as a punt” if the ball had been intercepted. “At least he had a response and was thinking,” Sumlin said of his quarterback.
While the college football nation is aware of Manziel, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, fans are becoming more familiar with Evans.
With 20 catches for 518 yards, Evans is the only receiver in the country to have cracked 500 yards through the middle of September. His seven catches for 279 yards against Alabama constituted the fourth-best receiving performance in Southeastern Conference history. Nationally, it’s also the best outing by a receiver this season.
There’s been only one pass play this season longer than Evans’ 95-yard reception. Central Michigan’s Cooper Rush and Titus Davis combined for a 97-yarder.
Sumlin said Tuesday that Evans played half of last fall with a bad hamstring. He’s healthy now, but Evans was so exhausted after Saturday’s game that he needed intravenous fluids.
In postgame interviews, Evans wouldn’t even acknowledge his record-setting performance.
“I didn’t block as well as I was capable of — I know that,” said the sophomore split end. “I did some things, made some big plays, but it wasn’t enough in the end.”
Manziel and Evans could be in line for another good day Saturday. SMU is only 117th in the country in pass defense, with the Mustangs allowing 315.5 yards per game.
Former Longhorn QB leading the nation: SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert, the former Longhorn from Lake Travis, leads the nation in completions per game. He’s averaging 38. Gilbert’s average of 393.5 total offensive yards per game ranks third-best in the nation, but he’s thrown only one touchdown pass in two games.
Yeldon apologizes: Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon has issued a public apology to Tide fans and to A&M. He was tagged for unsportsmanlike conduct Saturday, when he made a “money” gesture to mock Manziel then did a double throat slash after scoring a touchdown.
10-TEXAS A&M VS. SMU
6 p.m. Saturday, ESPNU, 1370