HAPPY HOLLIDAY: Holliday's return a big one

When you're in a battle and someone punches you in the mouth, you punch back.

The No. 8 LSU Tigers had been known to swing a heavy punch before Friday's showdown in Little Rock against Arkansas, but no one expected such a small man to deliver such a huge punch.


Throughout the season, key players have delivered the big punch for the Tigers (10-2, 6-2 SEC), but not a freshman. JaMarcus Russell and company (Dwayne Bowe, Early Doucet and Craig Davis) have delivered big blows against their opponents all season, including a last-minute touchdown against Ole Miss.


On defense, senior safety LaRon Landry has delivered the final blow to at least two quarterbacks earlier in the season by knocking them out of the contest and is the leader of one of the nation's best defenses.


That tradition was changed in one play.


With 10:59 remaining in the fourth quarter, Arkansas running back Darren McFadden busted up the middle on the first play of the drive for an 80-yard touchdown run that pulled the Razorbacks within five at 24-19. McFadden's long dash to the end zone was a hefty response to Doucet's touchdown grab just moments before that put the Tigers ahead 24-12.


"When I saw him run back that touchdown, I was thinking, ‘Man, it's my turn to show him what I got,'" Holliday said.


So with a capacity crowd of 55,833 reeling with momentum and excitement, 5-foot-5, 150-pound Trindon Holiday walked toward the south end zone of War Memorial Stadium bouncing up and down while jabbering off to his teammates that he was going to run it back.

"I think when [McFadden] scored that touchdown, they were all hyped and had all the momentum," Holliday said. "I told myself I had to make a play for special teams and contribute."


When the ball was kicked and fell in front of him, the freshman speedster found a hole and planted a cut before he turned his burners on and dashed up the field. As Holliday was crossing the goal line 92 yards later, he was still pulling away from Razorback defenders.


"We were working on it all night and all day," Holliday said. "We knew we had to make something happen. When I saw him kick it off and I saw it falling short, I just picked it up and I saw the hole."


Doucet, Holliday's backside blocker, said he could feel his team was preparing to make a big play, he just didn't know how or when.


"They had been kicking them out of bounds," Doucet said. "Trindon just made a hell of a play. He found a crack, and they made a block for him. He just used his God-given speed and went to the house."


The score put the Tigers back ahead by 12, 31-19, and killed a very enthusiastic Arkansas crowd. The run later proved to be enough as the Tigers held off the Razorbacks' late surge, winning 31-26.


Holliday's touchdown return wasn't just another touchdown for LSU. LSU head coach Les Miles said the touchdown was also a statement and showed that his team could be the best team in the Southeastern Conference even though they will not be playing in Atlanta for the conference championship on Saturday.


"We feel we are the best team in the SEC," Holliday said. "We fell short at first in a few games. We just had to work hard. I wish they would have a playoff atmosphere where everyone would have the chance to play like high school."


The touchdown ended any hope that remained for Arkansas to reach the national championship game against Ohio State, and it also ended their undefeated conference season. For Arkansas to be awarded a BCS bowl game, they must beat Florida in the conference championship game.


For Holliday, he said this touchdown shows it doesn't matter the size of the man, but the size of his heart. As a freshman, his role at practice and during games is larger than others, despite his size.


"To answer right then," Miles said, "to turn around the next play and say, ‘Hey, we'll play you. Let's go.' And our guy answers. The very next snap, Holliday answers."


In the second quarter with the Razorbacks blitzing, Holliday entered the contest for one of the few appearances he made on offense. On first down, Holliday sneaked into the defensive backfield with no one in front of him for 25 yards. Russell found Holliday, but he overthrew the short receiver and ended what could have been an exciting touchdown play.


The speedster can line up at running back and wide out, and he returns kickoffs and punts. With the departure of Xavier Carter to the track and field pro circuit during the summer, Holliday's role increased. He is now the fastest player on the team, just ahead of senior receiver Davis.


As a track star while at Northeast High School in Zachary, Holliday clocked a true 4.27 time in the 40-yard dash.

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