Kent State quarterback Nick Holley did his best Julian Edelman impersonation in shredding the University at Buffalo defense Saturday.
Holley, a slot receiver who was switched to quarterback just last week, rushed 24 times for 224 yards and four touchdowns in leading Kent State to a 44-20 rout of the Bulls.
The redshirt junior never had played quarterback for the Golden Flashes the last three-plus years. But the former high school option quarterback was pressed into service after Kent State’s top two QBs both went down with season-ending injuries in the first four weeks.
The Golden Flashes have stumbled upon a star. At 5-foot-10, 198 pounds, Holley resembles Edelman, the New England Patriots star receiver who excelled at quarterback for Kent State from 2006 to 2008.
Holley produced 402 yards of offense in a 31-27 loss to Akron last week and was even better in his second college start.
“It looks like they’ve found a recipe for success offensively,” said UB coach Lance Leipold. “Very scrappy, Nick Holley. From the first play on, it was kind of indicative of a lot of the day. Our attention to detail, wrapping up, things like that, was not where it needed to be.”
Kent State improved to 2-4. UB is 1-4.
Holley gave UB fits with his quickness all day. Not counting yards lost on sacks, he had 240 rushing yards. He passed 13 times for seven completions and 89 yards.
He ripped off a 65-yard run on the first play from scrimmage to set up a field goal. It looked like UB defensive end Brandon Crawford had him tackled, but Holley kept his balance, spun out of the tackle and raced downfield.
On the next series, he ran 67 yards for a touchdown. Kent State spread the UB defense out with an empty-backfield formation. Holley slipped out of a would-be tackle by Khalil Hodge and beat the UB defense down the left sideline.
That was Holley’s recipe all day. Kent spread UB out and either handed off on a jet sweep or let Holley work his magic up the middle and off tackle.
“We knew he was a great athlete, but that still doesn’t give a reason for him to have that many yards,” said Hodge. “He’s definitely a good player, but I felt like a lot of the big plays they were having were on us. We were allowing them to happen – if it’d be missed tackles, missed alignments, missed assignments.”
UB’s defense did not get any help from the Bulls’ offense. Despite Holley’s rushing yards – he had 149 not counting sack yardage at halftime – the Bulls defenders gave up only 13 points the first 40 minutes of the game.
But Holley engineered four straight scoring drives (three touchdowns and a field goal) the final 20 minutes.
“We just didn’t seem to fly around,” Leipold said. “I even said to the strength coach, I think we look sluggish.”
Holley’s twin brother, Nate, was the star of the Kent State defense. He made a game-high 13 tackles. Nate Holley is a returning first-team all-Mid-American Conference safety. Kent State was the only Football Bowl Subdivision school to offer a scholarship to either Holley.