ATHENS. — Georgia tailback Elijah Holyfield isn’t sure the Bulldogs needed a wake-up call at LSU, “but it woke us up for sure.”
And now, rival Florida is on deck, set for a 3:30 p.m SEC East Division showdown in Jacksonville on Saturday.
“It (LSU loss) leads a bad taste in your mouth until you are able to play again,” Holyfield said. “So this is a great chance to move on from it. We hope to play better and execute better.”
Holyfield, who made this third consecutive start against the Tigers in the 36-16 loss, just needs to maintain the electric pace he has been on this season, averaging an SEC-high 7.51 yards per rushing attempt.
Florida players have obviously taken note. Gators’ linebacker Rayshad Jackson saying on Monday that while Holyfield likes to take on defenders, “we’re all capable of trucking him back.”
College GameDay analyst Kirk Herbstreit told DawgNation on Tuesday that there’s more to Holyfield than that, from his observations this season.
“I think Holyfield has been a pleasant surprise to them, I don’t know where they would be without him, he’s averaging close to 8 yards a carry,” Herbstreit said. “I know he’s big and strong, I feel like compared to the body I saw standing next to him at Rose Bowl practice and at the national championship, he looked much thicker, he looked almost more like a power back last year.
“Not that he’s running away from people, but he does look a lot lighter on his feet and a lot quicker. Whatever he did in the offseason has paid off, because he’s got a little more wiggle this year instead of just trying to run over people he can dance around them and use his quickness, and I think that’s helped him become a better back.”
Georgia coach Kirby Smart said earlier in the season that Holyfield needed to work on his pass-catching skills, and the junior said he took it upon himself to catch 100 footballs after practice each day off the jugs machine.
“I think I’m doing pretty well,” Holyfield said, asked about his development as a receiver in the backfield. “I got two balls thrown to me and caught both of them, so if they keep throwing to me, I’ll keep catching them.”
D’Andre Swift has 12 catches for 130 yards, but Swift has also dropped passes, most recently what appeared to be a big-gainer at LSU.
Time will tell if offensive coordinator Jim Chaney entrusts Holyfield will the opportunity to catch passes out of the backfield in games. Fans and media don’t have the benefit of seeing practice each day, so one would think there’s a reason that hasn’t happened yet.
Holyfield hasn’t let the rotation or substitution pattern slow him down, focused solely on what he can do when provided opportunities.
“When I get the ball, I just try to run as hard as I can,” said Holyfield, who had seven carries for 56 yards including a 10-yard touchdown run against the Tigers.
“I’ve been able to be a little more patient, and see things,” Holyfield said. “The game has slowed down for me, and I think I’ve gotten bigger, faster stronger since last year, as well.”
The No. 7-ranked Bulldogs (6-1, 4-1 SEC) find themselves in a must-win situations against the No. 9-ranked Gators (6-1, 4-1).
“A lot of us have payed in big games before, and we’ll stay in that same mindset, it’s just another game that we have to win,” Holyfield said. “I embrace it, I like playing big games, I think it brings the best out of people.”
Georgia RB Elijah Holyfield