MOREHEAD, Ky. — When Morehead State University’s recruiters came all the way from Kentucky to Mount Airy last fall, one of the things that interested them was the big-play talent possessed by the Granite Bears’ Ian Holder.
The Eagles’ persistence in recruiting the 5’10”, 180-pound son of long-time Mount Airy head coach Kelly Holder paid off last fall, when the younger Holder signed a national letter of intent to play for Morehead, a member of the NCAA Division I FCS Pioneer Football League.
On Saturday evening, the Eagles were in over their heads in a game against a nationally-ranked FCS team in Austin Peay, but everyone got a glimpse of just what Ian Holder can do.
The true freshman wide receiver was lined up as the middle receiver in a “trips right” formation late ion the third quarter against the Governors, but Morehead had committed a holding penalty two plays earlier and faced third-and-15 from its own 35-yard yard line.
Fortunately, when it’s third-and-15, Ian Holder is just the kind of guy you want to get the football to. When the ball was snapped, Holder was single-covered and pulled up momentarily on a hitch-and-go route about seven yards from the line of scrimmage. The move fooled his defender and Holder got a step in front, and was about two steps in front by the time he hauled in quarterback Lawson Page’s pass at the Austin Peay 36. From there, as the announcer for Morehead State said, it was a footrace, and Holder took the ball into the Governors’ end zone.
The touchdown pulled the Eagles to within 50-40 in a shootout against Austin Peay, a university with a far larger football budget and scholarships, with 3:19 remaining in the third quarter. Unfortunately, Morehead State ran out of gas after that, and the Governors, whose only pulled away to win the game 78-40.
“We did a lot of great things tonight, I thought we were well prepared for this game,” said MSU head coach Rob Tenyer. “Their speed and athleticism just simply wore us down in the fourth quarter.”
Holder ended up leading the Eagles in receiving yardage, catching three passes for 76 yards.
He didn’t play in Morehead’s season opener, a 49-23 loss to Eastern Kentucky, but made his collegiate debut on Sept. 8 in an 48-19 victory over Mt. St. Joseph. In that game, Holder gained his first all-purpose yards for Morehead State late in the first quarter, when he made a 17-yard punt return that set the Eagles up in business on MSJ’s 22-yard line. They scored three plays later to extend their lead to 14-0.
He caught his first collegiate pass in that game as well, that coming in the second quarter with Morehead on a scoring drive that made their lead 28-0. Along the way, the Eagles faced a second-and-7 at the MSJ 22-yard line, and Holder hauled in a pass from Lawson to get the first down. He caught a second pass later in the quarter, this one for five yards on another scoring march by Morehead.
The Eagles are off this Saturday, but return to action on Sept. 29 for their first Pioneer League contest, at Butler University in Indianapolis. Holder will return to his home state as a college player for the first time on Oct. 13, when Morehead State visits Davidson.
The game was already a 42-6 blowout by halftime, and the Eagles kept the ball on the ground for the most part in the second half.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.