After continuing a phenomenal season by breaking his own school record for receiving yards in a game, Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans is now the top non-quarterback candidate to win the Heisman Trophy.
The race is still largely a quarterback contest, with Marcus Mariota, Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston leading the way. But if anyone playing another position has the ability to snatch the trophy away from these guys – like he grabs every single ball thrown his way – it’s Evans.
The sophomore set the school record of 279 receiving yards against No. 1 Alabama on Sept. 14, only to outdo that performance in a Week 8 loss to Auburn. Evans hauled in 11 catches for 287 yards and touchdowns of 26, 64, 42 and 33 yards. Evans also became the first Aggies player with two 200-yard receiving games in his career, and his four receiving touchdowns against the Tigers tied the school record set by Ryan Swope against Baylor in 2011.
So far this season, no team has come close to stopping him. He’s the most dangerous perimeter weapon in college football.
Sure, some teams have blanketed Evans with two or three guys, but even then he has a positive impact for his team by helping someone else get open. He did just that two weeks ago against Ole Miss. Evans only had four catches for 46 yards, but he occupied the attention of several Rebels’ defenders each play. That opened the door for Travis Labhart, Malcome Kennedy and Derel Walker, who combined to catch 20 balls for 258 yards.
Saturday afternoon, however, he took matters into his own hands, despite how many Auburn defenders were draped on his massive frame.
The 6-foot-5, 225-pound monster is now second in the nation with 1,024 receiving yards (146.3 YPG), behind only Bradin Cooks (1,176, 168 YPG) of Oregon State. His 95-yard score against Alabama is the fourth-longest TD reception this college football season.
But Manziel’s favorite target has gained all those yards with 33 less receptions (43) than Cooks (76). Evans leads the nation with 23.8 yards per catch, accounting for big time plays downfield as opposed to a bunch of dink and dunk receptions. At his current average per catch, if Evans had 76 receptions, he would have a whopping 1,733 yards so far.
Despite his dominating play, Evans has been largely overshadowed in the Heisman conversation by his quarterback, the reigning winner of college football’s most prestigious award. But without Evans, Manziel would not have hoisted the trophy last year or be in the conversation this season.
Evans’ receiving yardage accounts for nearly half (45 percent) of the 2,289 yards Manziel has thrown for this year, and he has caught exactly half of Johnny Football’s 18 TD passes. On more than a few occasions this season, Manziel has flung a prayer downfield only to have it answered by a leaping Evans.
As far as matchups go, there isn’t a tougher one in college football than Mike Evans. He simply cannot be stopped, as evidenced by the single, double and triple coverage he saw from Auburn during his record-breaking performance Saturday.
Although his team lost its second game of the season, Evans is anything but out of the Heisman race – remember, his QB won the award last season when A&M also had two losses.