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East Lansing — For more than three quarters on Saturday, the only time Michigan State running back Gerald Holmes saw the field was on special teams.

But with the offense struggling and fellow running backs Madre London and LJ Scott failing to stand out, Holmes found himself becoming a focal part of the offense in the fourth quarter.

The sophomore, who scored in the season opener against Western Michigan but had been pushed out of the running back rotation the past two weeks, answered with touchdown runs of 3 yards and 6 yards as well as catching a key 17-yard pass that set up his first touchdown.

His touchdowns helped No. 2 Michigan State pull away for a 30-10 victory.

"He's a good enough player to play for us, and I'm always looking for opportunities to get him in," Michigan State co-offensive coordinator Dave Warner said. "I wanted to get him in the first half; it didn't happen, but there wasn't necessarily a plan that we were going to get him in this situation. I just felt like we missed a couple cuts early on and in the first half, and I just wanted to give him an opportunity and he deserves it. He stood up and did a good job."

Holmes finished with 22 yards on four carries, as well as his one catch for 17 yards.

He admitted he was surprised to hear his name called so late in the game, but he's been preparing each week with the belief he would get an opportunity to carry the ball.

"I believe it's difficult if you're not getting your mind prepared for that," Holmes said. "I go into each game expecting to hear my name called and getting the job done. I'm always on my toes and am ready. If I go into a game down and thinking I won't get in then when your name is called it will affect you."

That doesn't mean it's been easy for Holmes, who entered the season with 15 career carries.

"It has been (hard)," he said. "I'm human, so I had my ups and downs. But at the end of the day you have to think positive. I'm a good athlete and a good player and I have faith in myself."

Cook ties Cousins

Fifth-year senior quarterback Connor Cook earned his 27th career victory, moving him into a tie for most in Michigan State history with Kirk Cousins.

Cook finished 11-for-19 for 143 yards and one touchdown and still wasn't especially happy with how he played.

"It's on myself to get into a rhythm, no matter how many times we pass it," Cook said. "Whether it's 50 times or whatever, that's the quarterback's job. That's my job to get into a rhythm, but I thought we started out hot. When we were in the third-and-long situations, I threw it at LJ (Scott's) feet on one scramble. I threw it short to (Aaron Burbridge) on that backside curl.

"Those two throws are on me. I think if that doesn't occur, I throw completions, keep the rock rolling, keep the ball moving, it'd be a different outcome. I wouldn't say it's on the amount of passes you throw, it's definitely on the quarterback, on me, to get into a rhythm."

Extra points

Junior tight end Josiah Price left the game late with an ankle injury, but before leaving he set a Michigan State record for tight ends with his 14th touchdown reception.

Price, who has TD catches in four consecutive games, surpassed the 13 touchdown grabs Chris Baker had from 1998-2001

… True freshman safety Khari Willis played for the first time on Saturday, becoming the fifth true freshman to play this season for the Spartans.

Willis joins running back LJ Scott, receiver Felton Davis, linebacker Andrew Dowell and safety Grayson Miller as true freshmen who have played this season. Willis was credited with on pass breakup.

… Junior kicker Michael Geiger had his consecutive PAT streak snapped at 98 when his extra point in the fourth quarter was blocked. The 98 straight PATs is a Michigan State record.

… Approximately 1,000 tickets ($50 and $80) remain on sale for next Saturday's Homecoming game against Purdue.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/mattcharboneau

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