“He definitely earned that,” Gus Malzahn said. “You talk about a guy that has been playing corner, and he goes to the field safety and had two days to get himself ready. He was really phenomenal. He gives us experience back there and he’s a real calm, confident guy. He just understands the game and his play was really big.”
While Holsey was leading the Tigers on defense with his play in the secondary, Whitehead was left at home with his suspension. Getting prepared to face Louisiana Tech this weekend, Holsey could again be the guy at safety with Whitehead's status still in question.
"Nothing's changed at this point," Malzahn said of Whitehead's suspension.
Holsey is one of the bright spots for the Tigers coming off a hard-fought win on the road along with the defense overall as a group. That is not the case on offense, a place where the head coach said Auburn must take big strides forward heading into this weekend and down the road.
Even though it wasn’t a pretty win, Malzahn said going into a tough environment and getting a win can do nothing but help his team as the Tigers get ready for a brutal schedule down the stretch in 2014.
“We can take a lot of lessons from this game,” he said. “It was a Top 20 team on the road at their place in a hostile environment, you find out a lot about your team. When things aren’t going perfect, how are we going to react to adversity? How are we going to react to success?
“Are we going to make a play to win the game when the game is on the line? Our guys did that. I believe that will definitely help moving forward because we play a very tough schedule, probably the toughest in college football, and we play quite a few on the road. We have that experience, and that will do nothing but help us.”
To get better the Tigers must first improve on offense. Coming into the season the defense was thought to once again be the question, but Kansas State was able to slow the Auburn offense unlike anyone since early last season. Malzahn pointed out the goal now is to correct mistakes and execute the offense because that’s the key.
“It’s overall execution,” Malzahn said. “The thing about offense is that it takes all 11 guys to do the right thing. We didn’t do that very often last Thursday. We’ve got to have a wake-up call. We’ve got to get better and we’ve got to get better at our foundation plays and be able to execute them at a high level. That’s our challenge and what we’re working hard to do.
“We’ve got figure out a way to get better,” Malzahn added. “We didn’t play our best, but we won. I think that’s the bottom line. Our guys understand that and our coaches understand that. When you don’t play your best and win against a Top 20 team, I think that’s a positive thing.”