Holmes’ big night takes him from grief to 'Christmas'

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Gerald Holmes looks over his shoulder to see no defenders near him as he sprints into the end zone for his second touchdown of the day.

South Bend, Ind. — Gerald Holmes broke into the open on Saturday night at Notre Dame Stadium and there was no one on the field that was going to catch him.

After all, he wasn’t about to be stopped the way he was feeling.

“Christmas,” Holmes said when asked to describe what it felt like when he hit the hole and galloped 73 yards for a touchdown in Michigan State’s 36-28 victory over Notre Dame. “And I’m opening my gift now.”

It was a level of elation Holmes would have had a hard time imagining just 24 hours earlier. It was on Friday evening, during team meetings that Holmes found out his grandmother had died.

“I broke down in tears,” Holmes said. “But I knew I had a game today and I kind of just took motivation from there and came out here and balled.”

He did that, all right, gaining 100 yards on just 13 carries and scoring twice. His 3-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter put Michigan State ahead 22-7, and his 73-yarder was Michigan State’s final score, one that gave the Spartans a 36-7 lead late in the third quarter.

It was a heck of a performance for a player who didn’t get a single carry in the season-opening victory over Furman two weeks ago, and one that was a key part of last season’s run to the college football playoff. But the junior fought through the adversity to help spark the Spartans offense on Saturday.

“It was tough,” Holmes admitted. “I came off a good year last year so coming in I thought I would be playing and it kind of hit me. Coach (Mark Dantonio) told me to be ready, so when my name was called I had to ball out. It was a tough two weeks but I kept grinding and that’s what we do, we grind until our name is called.”

Holmes’ performance was no surprise to his running mate.

Sophomore LJ Scott once again got the start and was effective, as well, gaining 98 yards on 22 carries and adding a 9-yard touchdown run. He could sense a big night coming from Holmes.

“We heard about (his grandmother’s death) and we knew what his mind-set was,” Scott said. “He kind of held everything in but we saw that he was ready once we left the hotel. He said if he gets in there he would take advantage of the opportunity. He went and got it done.”

It all culminated with the 73-yard scamper, one in which Holmes proved he’s not just a bruiser, but someone who could hit the home run.

“It was the longest run of my career so far and it felt like high school all over again,” Holmes said. “I was looking back and forth the whole time to see if they would dive for my legs or if I would have to fade out.

“But mostly, it was like Christmas.”

It provided a gift for Holmes as he remembered his grandmother, and for the Spartans, who proved they have plenty of offensive weapons.

“That was difficult for him, so our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family,” Dantonio said. “As far as giving him the ball, you know, really he’s a hot back, we’re going to give the hot back the ball. I don’t care who runs it, but he got hot, so we’re going to give him touches.” @mattcharboneau