Holmes Fills Void As Flanker, Big Play Guy

Redshirt freshman Santonio Holmes emerges as a big play threat, filling in at flanker after Drew Carter's season-ending knee injury. Holmes has made 13 catches, including three for touchdowns, over the last three games. He only had two grabs in OSU's first seven games.

When senior flanker Drew Carter went down with a season-ending knee injury Oct. 25 at Indiana, many OSU followers were curious as to who would step into the void and complement split end Michael Jenkins.

After all, even with Carter, Jenkins was seeing more than his fair share of double coverage, forcing OSU's quarterbacks to look away from their favorite receiver.

A number of names were mentioned in terms of replacing Carter. They included redshirt freshman Santonio Holmes and juniors Bam Childress and Chris Gamble, a former full-time receiver who doubles as a starting cornerback.

If there was any doubt who should play, there isn't any anymore. The 5-11, 185-pound Holmes has made himself right at home and become, arguably, OSU's newest big play guy.

Over the last three games, he has collected a team-high 13 passes for 272 yards (20.9 average) and three touchdowns. Holmes had been biding his time -- he only made two catches for 37 yards in OSU's first seven games -- as he waited for Carter graduate so he could take over the flanker spot.

But the future has come early for this native of Belle Glade, Fla.

"I've been waiting on my opportunity," Holmes said. "The coaches told me to be patient. That's exactly what I have been. He knew I was capable of making plays. He just told me to take my time and get out there and do what I normally do in practice."

Holmes burst on the scene at Indiana, making six catches for 153 yards and two touchdowns. He then helped OSU secure a narrow 21-20 win at Penn State with five grabs for 78 yards. This past Saturday, he had two catches for 51 yards. But one of them was a spectacular 37-yard touchdown grab from Craig Krenzel that pushed OSU's lead to 17-7 in the second quarter. (The Buckeyes went on to win 33-23.)

On the play, Holmes ran a skinny post and had MSU cornerback Darren Barnett on his hip. Krenzel rifled the ball in to Holmes, who dealt with interference from Barnett to make the catch. Then, as MSU's Greg Cooper was coming right at him, Holmes had the presence of mind to collect himself, do a little lateral sidestep to the left to avoid Cooper and then motored the last 12 yards before diving at the goal line to complete the touchdown.

It was an incredible athletic play by such a young receiver -- and in such a big game, no less.

"I was just thinking to myself that if I get a chance, I have to get to the end zone," Holmes said. "That's exactly what happened. I made a big play for our offense. I knew I had to get into the end zone because I know when we get in the red zone, we have to run it in. Plus, I just feel I can get our quarterback a little confidence in us receivers if we can make plays after the catch.

"I think it was pass interference. I think they came up behind me and hit me, but I kept my concentration on the ball. I wasn't focused on that. I was focused on the ball the entire time."

After hibernating much of the year, the Ohio State offense is springing to life at exactly the right time. Holmes credits the entire unit for stepping up its level of play.

"It comes back to the offensive line," Holmes said. "If they protect, we'll make plays. We'll move the ball down the field, and that's exactly what we did today. Right now, our offense is focused. We are all on the same page. Our receivers are making plays. Our quarterbacks are dialed in and the coaches are calling the right plays for us to win."

Against MSU, Ohio State was flagged for just two penalties for 14 yards -- a far cry from earlier in the year, when bad late hit penalties and holding calls were all too prevalent.

"We have really talked a lot about that," Holmes said. "I think over the last two games, we have really cut our penalties down on offense. We feel if we can keep our penalties down, we can score more points."

And it helps to play in the friendly confines of Ohio Stadium, where another near-record crowd in excess of 105,000 is expected Saturday as No. 4 OSU hosts No. 11 Purdue.

"We just knew we were home at the ‘Shoe," Holmes said. "Coach told us that good teams win at home. All of the Buckeye teams before us have won their big games here and we have to do it, too."

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