ATHENS – Elijah Holyfield was mad, furious really. Not at somebody else. At himself.
He was not happy about being run out at the 7-yard line by Middle Tennessee defensive back Gregory Grate. It meant the junior running back was credited with a 66-yard run rather than a 73-yard touchdown, which he felt it should have been.
“I was very, very mad. Very mad,” Holyfield said of not reaching the end zone. “But I’ll learn from my mistakes and it won’t happen again.”
It appeared all that happened was the MTSU defensive back had an angle on him, and Holyfield simply couldn’t outrun him.
“As I was running I was thinking to myself, ‘I don’t think I’m going to make it without him catching me.’ So I tried to slow down and tried to get him to run past me or something. He didn’t. He slowed down with me and caught my jersey. So, like I said, that was a mistake and that won’t happen again.”
So, for now at least, Holyfield will have to wait on that coveted home-run touchdown run. As it was, his 66-yarder set up the Bulldogs’ for their first score of the game in what ended up as a 49-7 blowout.
But Holyfield no longer will have to wait on that elusive first 100-yard rushing game of his college career. He got it right on the nose with 100 yards on 8 carries.
“It definitely gives you some confidence,” Holyfield said.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart was thrilled for his hard-working back, who has been nothing if not patient since arriving in Athens as a 4-star prospect three years ago.
“What you see is what you get,” Smart said of Holyfield. “What you guys see, he’s like that every day in practice. For two years, you know, Sony [Michel] and Nick [Chubb] got all the accolades and credit and deservedly so. But those kids last spring, talking about Holyfield and [Brian] Herrien, they showed me what they had because they got a lot of carries. They handled it well and were really physical. I was thinking, ‘We’ve got two good backs that nobody is going to know about.'”
As has been well-documented, Georgia has a bunch of good backs. D’Andre Swift was expected to be the premier ball-carrier this season, but he didn’t play much on Saturday. The sophomore from Philadelphia had just four carries for 12 yards and didn’t play in the game after the Bulldogs’ first two offensive series.
Swift has battled a groin injury since spring practice, and there were rumblings he was dealing with something on Saturday. But Smart downplayed Swift’s lack of work.
“D’Andre played the first drive, he had the first two or three carries,” Smart said. “I mean, we rotated pretty much after that. Once we felt the game was in hand we were going to play some of those other guys who haven’t had as many carries.”
Holyfield didn’t play much either. After going for 88 yards on six carries in the first quarter, he’d have just two more attempts in the second before calling it a day.
James Cook and Prather Hudson also got carries in the game. Herrien had the second-best production among the backs with 44 yards on five carries.
Holyfield continued to have a positive attitude about sharing the load.
“You kind of get to save your body a little bit when everybody else is getting touches as well,” Holyfield said. “Now we’re going into SEC play and I think we’ll do the same thing. We spread the ball around and make it work.”
Holyfield’s day certainly made his father proud. He is, of course, the son of former heavyweight boxing world champion Evander Holyfield. As always, the “Champ” was at Saturday’s game.
“I’ve had great games in front of my dad before, so he’s kind of used to it,” Holyfield said. “He’s happy that I’m getting some time and finally getting my opportunity.”
Based on his production and attitude, don’t surprised if Holyfield doesn’t get the start next week at Missouri.
“I thought Elijah showed some explosiveness today,” Smart said. “He’s really hard to tackle, he’s physical, had a good blitz pick-up and he continues to work on his hands. That’s something that kid stays every day after practice working on. He wants to overcome that as one of his weaknesses.
“But I tell you what he’s got: He’s got a heart of gold and he really works. He leads by example and the other players respect Holyfield for the way he works.”
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- Game Ball: Elijah Holyfield becomes Georgia’s first 100-yard rusher of season
- No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs follow script in 49-7 win over Middle Tennessee