The stage was set for the unveiling of the Travis Thomas express. With an injury to senior running back Ryan Grant, Thomas was set to make his first start in the season-opener against BYU.
The buzz surrounding the talented sophomore has been swirling since his arrival early last fall. Six carries, 3 yards and two fumbles later and the express had blown a gasket—but not for long according to Thomas.
Thomas did show flashes of his talent, including his two catches for 28 yards in the same game, and also shined in picking up some blitzes, but the fumbles forced him to be exiled to the bench—a place Thomas hopes to break free from very soon.
"It was difficult not playing, but I've just got to work my way back up," said Thomas of his situation. "That's all it is. I've got to hold onto to the ball, period."
"It has been frustrating, but I'm keeping positive and I'll just keep working."
Irish running back coach Buzz Preston told Thomas he has to do one thing to see the field again.
"He said hold onto the ball," Thomas said of the conversation he had with Preston after the game. "That's all he said. That's the reason why I didn't finish out the game, and that's the why I didn't see a lot of time on Saturday. I just need to hold onto the ball."
Thomas is known as the "work horse" and he admits that he was probably trying to live up to that moniker, at least during one of his fumbles.
"That was probably the situation on the second one," said Thomas when asked if he might've been trying to make something out of nothing on his carries. "I probably tried to make something happen out of very little. I just got caught in the wrong position, tried to do too much, and bam, it popped out."
The Washington, Pa. native says he's trying to remain positive and wants to look at the positive things he's done since reporting to Notre Dame.
"I thought I was doing well," said Thomas of his play thus far this fall. "I did some good things. I always try to look at things positively, but it's hard when you're not in there. You've just got to keep working."
The former SuperPrep All-American says he's confident he'll get another chance, and he's hoping that chance will come this weekend when the Irish face Michigan State on Saturday night.
"There's still an opportunity for me to get back in there," he said. "I'll just keeping working. Hopefully I'll get in there this weekend. If I don't, we still have got a lot of games left. I've just got to hold onto that ball, man."
Thomas says he hasn't lost confidence and knows all he can do at this point is to try to make the most out of the carries he receives in practice.
"I have lost confidence in myself, but you've just got to get their confidence back. The more times I carry the ball, the more it gives you confidence. I just need more reps and I'll show what I can do."
Despite the setback, Thomas has found joy in this season so far. The sophomore business major says he gained some bragging rights after the Michigan victory.
"The win definitely felt good," said Thomas of the Irish victory over Michigan. "(Ryan) Mundy and (Steve) Breaston, I ran track against them in high school and we're from the same area. Now when I go home, I've got some bragging rights. I didn't want to go home with a loss. I would've heard it for sure. It felt great."
Thomas might be down on the depth chart, but don't count this talented sophomore out. There is a reason he claimed the starting position against BYU, and all he needs is an opportunity to show what he can do again. But this time, holding onto the football.