By Charles Goldberg
OXFORD, Miss. — Josh Holsey was explaining how secondary coach Wesley McGriff had told his guys that somebody needed to make a play.
Josh Holsey volunteered.
The fifth-year senior's fourth-quarter interception and long return flipped the momentum, maybe saved the game, and helped Auburn to its 40-29 win over Ole Miss on Saturday night. Coach Gus Malzahn called it the play of the game. It certainly turned away Ole Miss, which was driving for a potential go-ahead touchdown until Holsey made his interception. A few plays later, Auburn turned a four-point lead into an 11-point victory.
Holsey said he had seen the Ole Miss play before. When quarterback Chad Kelly tried it again midway through the fourth quarter, Holsey recognized it and was ready.
"They ran the same exact play in the second quarter," Holsey said.
Kelly faked pumped the throw the first time. Not this time.
"We happened to be in the same exact coverage and they ran it again, and my eyes got so big. If you zoomed in on my eyes, my eyes got really big, like 'he's going to throw it this time.' Kelly threw and Holsey stepped in to make the move. Holsey caught the pass and returned it 47 yards to the Ole Miss 25. Three plays later, Auburn scored.
"If he had double moved me, he would have scored. I'm glad he didn't. I just happened to see the same play. Just watching film. I kind of know concepts," Holsey said.
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Holsey, who came back from major knee surgery twice in his career, said the interception was the results of his persistence.
"My hard work came into play. I'm working as hard as I possibly can to do my part for the defense," he said.
"When he returned that," Malzahn said, "it flipped the field, and gave the offense a short field and we were able to score a touchdown and that really put the game away."
Ole Miss led 22-20 at the half with Kelly putting up crazy passing numbers, as in 279 yards. Kelly finished with 465 yards and the two teams combined for more than 1,100 yards. But Ole Miss mustered only one touchdown over the last two quarters.
"A lot of adjustments," Holsey said.
Kelly just missed the go-ahead touchdown on the play before Holsey's interception when his pass slipped through the hands of receiver Evan Engram.
Kelly's quick throws negated Auburn's defensive line early on.
"We gave up too many yards with the quick gain," Holsey said. "I think it was their game plan to quick-gain us to take our D-line out of the game, which they really did in the first half."
That changed in the second half. And Auburn's busy defense — Kelly was 36 of 59 passing — kept plugging away. Holsey said it was a game in which he and his fellow defensive backs had to have short memories.
"You have to because if Chad sees that you're down, he's coming right back at you," Holsey said. "He doesn't care if you make a play or not. Like me, I made a play, and he came right back to me. It's really important to have short-term memory, especially in games they're going to throw it 30, 40 times. He's going to give you a chance to go make a play."
And that's just what Josh Holsey did.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine