“Me and Gabe (Myles) talked early in the week, we were looking good on kick return,” said Holloway. “We talked the whole week we were going to return for a touchdown, it was going to be the first one.”
Well, guess what? These Bulldogs delivered just as, yes, planned.
The first kickoff to come Mississippi State’s way in 2015 did end up in Brandon Holloway’s hands. His feet did the rest, taking the junior running back alllll the way back for the first Bulldog points of the season.
When we say alllll the way back, that’s a slight understatement. The Southern Mississippi kickoff, after their second-drive field goal for a 3-0 lead, was at least two full steps deep in Mississippi State’s end zone.
Yet Holloway, fielding on the right side with WR Myles moving up from the left to begin blocking, didn’t hesitate taking it out. He admitted thinking at that moment of his certainty it would be the first kickoff converted to point.
Nor did it take more than 20 or so yards for the whole Roberts Stadium crowd to see yeah, this one had a chance to break. Holloway shifted a bit towards center as the wall sealed off a lot of Eagles to the right. And his speed startled those few covering the middle who were just a little too late coming over and sealing.
“Once I saw Hutch (TE Darrion Hutcherson) that hit the kicker, at that point I pretty much knew,” Holloway said. “It kind of just opened-up a little bit and I got a good vision out there.”
The same sheer speed which brought a Bulldog scholarship offer to the 160 (or so) pound high school back held up to the other end as Holloway stayed just ahead of two desperate Eagles and got to the left pylon first. The touchdown return did not win the game, but it did steady a sputtering State squad just enough from opening jitters.
“That’s what we helped at the moment, that’s what we needed.”
Holloway has returned kickoffs before. He very nearly had a freshman touchdown in 2013 too, going 95 yards…before an Alcorn State tackle at the one-yard line. Last year he handled eight kickoffs for 159 total yards. Holloway got about two-thirds of that in one big burst last night.
And he so stunned Southern Mississippi that no more kickoffs came his way. In fact the Eagles didn’t try another deep kickoff at all, twice bumping on-sides (recovering one) and otherwise high-kicking.
Holloway’s contributions were more than returning a kick. Taking second-turn at running back he showed similar burst. Holloway netted 51 yards on seven attempts, with a 35-yarder to dig the Dogs out of a field position hole.
Starter RB Ashton Shumpert gained 38 yards on eight attempts, and ought have had two more yards as well as a touchdown. He was stripped on what should have been a ten-yard score for the game’s first points.
That didn’t diminish what Coach Dan Mullen saw in Shumpert and the backfield tandem. “The one fumble was disappointing. But he ran the ball really physical.” Whereas, Holloway was the slasher and dasher of this intriguing tag-team. Holloway likes this shared assault.
“I like it. He comes in and bruises people, I can come in and change up the speed. I think it works very well.”
Once the game was entirely secure, Mullen put two younger runners in the game to split a couple of carries. On the final series RB Dontavian Lee ran once for six yards, and then redshirt classmate RB Aeris Williams made his own debut with a two-yard tote.