It was the official’s face that told him to pick up the ball.
Christian Holmes saw Jeremiah Holloman cross the goal line without the football at the end of a 61 yard catch-and-run touchdown. Earlier that week, Barry Odom showed his team a play from a previous Georgia game — against South Carolina, where DeAndre Baker let go of the football before he crossed into the end zone on a touchdown return.
Holmes, from across the north end zone at Faurot Field, started running to the ball, laying on the ground near the west sideline. Even then, he said he wasn’t sure if Holloman had actually fumbled it.
But then he saw the official hovering over the ball.
“He was hesitant to pick it up,” Holmes said. “I saw his face, ‘cause he didn’t know either. That’s why I picked it up.”
No, this isn’t another article about those controversial calls against Georgia. Replay couldn’t confirm or overturn Holloman’s touchdown, so it stayed just that.
Instead, this is about Christian Holmes, a player that’s shown he puts himself in the right situations through four games. Now, he’s a player that could make an even bigger impact as Missouri enters a make-or-break stretch of its season following the bye week.
“He continues to play better and better each week at practice,” Barry Odom said following the game on Saturday. “I think it’s earned him an opportunity to get on the field a little bit more. I think we’ll see more of him.”
While the fumble-or-not WOULD have been a turning point of the game, it wasn’t the only play Holmes made. On Georgia’s first offensive series, Holmes jumped an out-route by Mecole Hardman and stole the slow, looping throw by Jake Fromm out of the receiver’s hands for an interception.
What’s more impressive — and shows why Holmes deserves more playing time — is the fact that he knew that play was coming.
“It was exactly what I knew in practice,” Holmes said. “The number two receiver was gonna run an inside breaking route and come right back to my zone.
“I was going for the tackle, officially, but once I realized how close the ball was, I played his hands to knock it out, and he pretty much gave it to me, so I took it.”
Missouri CB Christian Holmes picks off Jake Fromm pic.twitter.com/BafnVToKZ5— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) September 22, 2018
With inconsistent play in the secondary over the last two games, Holmes is taking more than just that pass from Fromm. As a freshman in 2016, Holmes saw limited action but impressed in preseason camp. It was his size that stood out — at 6-foot-1, 190-pounds, Holmes is a bigger cornerback.
A shoulder injury, however, ended his 2017 season before it even began, and since then, Holmes has been working his way back up the depth chart. Through four games, Holmes has one of Missouri’s two interceptions — and the player with the other interception, Cam Hilton, underwent surgery on his thumb on Monday, with no update on his timetable for a return.
Here’s the other crazy part about Holmes’ performance on Saturday: He only appeared on eight snaps. He played more against Purdue after the injury to DeMarkus Acy, and was one of the higher-graded players in that game.
“I think he is close to being one of the guys that plays meaningful all-game plays,” Odom said.