Bloomington, Ind. – Nick Hill admitted there was a smile starting to stretch across his face as he raced down the field Saturday evening.
The fifth-year senior running back was in the midst of scoring on a 76-yard run, the final touchdown in No. 8 Michigan State's 56-17 victory over Indiana, and he was feeling pretty good about it.
Not only was it, by far, the longest touchdown run of his career, it meant he was going to finish the game with 178 yards, the first time he has ever run for more than 100 yards in a game.
"Me and Travis (Jackson) were going crazy on the sidelines," said fifth-year senior offensive lineman Connor Kruse. "I was pumped for that kid."
Kruse and Hill came in the same class in 2010 and have been through plenty together. Kruse made his first start this season, while Hill has always been around but usually been the forgotten man in a crowded backfield. While he was usually spending his time returning kicks and punts and rarely seeing any time in the backfield, his fellow running backs were in the limelight.
The likes of Larry Caper, Edwin Baker, Le'Veon Bell and now Jeremy Langford were well ahead of him on the depth chart.
But through six games of his senior season, Hill had been much more of a factor. Entering Saturday's game he had 287 yards and five touchdowns on 60 carries. Those numbers were coming close to his best season of 2013, when he had 344 yards on 67 carries.
The Spartans' head coach talks about the 56-17 triumph.
Saturday's performance, however, was altogether different for the 5-foot-8 back from Chelsea, Mich.
"It was amazing," he said. "It was very emotional for me. The first 100-yard game in my career. It was very emotional for me."
On the long run, Hill broke through the line and outraced the Indiana secondary to the end zone. He admitted dropping a few pounds in the off-season helped. He said he weighed about 200 pounds last season but is checking in around 183 these days.
And as some asked him where that second gear came from, he had a hard time coming up with an answer.
He was too busy basking in the most productive day of his college career.
"When I broke free I kind of had a small smile on my face in the open field," Hill said. "I had to make sure there was no one around me, but as I hit the end zone I felt a huge relief off my shoulders. I finally got over 100 yards.
"I had a big old smile on my face in the end zone."