Gavin Holmes’ return for Baylor has some Bears ‘at loss for words’

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
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When Gavin Holmes weaved through the defense past would-be tacklers and broke free for the end zone on a punt return in the season opener, his Baylor teammates couldn’t contain their excitement.

More than the 72-yard touchdown return, this celebration was about the sixth-year player who scored it. Holmes missed all of the Bears’ Big 12 championship season last year because of a broken right foot, and that was after being limited to one game and missing their other conference title game during a two-season span when he twice tore the ACL in his left knee.

“He scored, and I was like, `Yes!’ I was at a loss for words because I knew how much it meant to him, I know how much it meant to the team and I knew how much it meant to his parents,” fifth-year Baylor cornerback Mark Milton said this week. “It was a blessing. A lot of people would have given up, but he didn’t.”

Not after five surgeries on his left knee, and all of the rehab that came with those. Not after the broken foot with ligament issues in the spring following the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, when he had 33 catches while playing in all nine games.

“I’ve always said I wanted to play until I physically can’t anymore, because I love this game. It’s all I’ve been doing my whole life,” Holmes said. “I’ve learned so much about myself in this process. And I know that I can still follow my dreams, chase my dreams and do what I want to do. So that really pushed me to keep going.”

In the first quarter of ninth-ranked Baylor’s season-opening 69-10 win over FCS team Albany, Holmes fielded a punt, escaped the grasp of an initial defender and then eluded several others. The final sprint was along the same sideline as the Baylor bench.

“So cool,” coach Dave Aranda said, aptly describing that entire sequence.

“I would hope that my son and my daughters kind of have the heart that he has, and just the awareness and the compassion that he has,” Aranda said. “So you root hard for guys like that. And for him to have an opportunity, man, that’s so cool. It could not happen to a better dude.”

Holmes, whose whole family was at the game, said the love and embrace he got from his teammates and coaches after the score was a feeling that he will never forget.

As for what Aranda said about him, Holmes said it was cool to hear.

“Just my journey, my testimony and all that … I want to be an influence to people, who especially are going through things like that I have been through,” Holmes said. “To hear coach Aranda say that about me, especially in reference to his own children, that’s amazing. I’m really appreciative and thankful that God has put me in this position to influence people like that.”

After being part of former coach Matt Rhule‘s first signing class in February 2017, Holmes started four of the nine games he played in later that fall as a true freshman before his first torn ACL late that season. He has played in only 11 games since, including those nine in 2020.

Holmes already has his undergraduate degree in health, kinesiology and leisure studies. But he wasn’t ready to be done playing for the Bears, who are at No. 21 BYU.

“I just want to contribute to the team in the best way that I can,” he said. “I’m surrounded by great guys and selfishly, it was fun being a part of that Big 12 championship last year, but I want to win one where I’m on the field.”

WVU RB Donaldson in concussion protocol, out for Baylor game

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) West Virginia running back CJ Donaldson is in concussion protocol and will miss next week’s home game with Baylor after he was injured in a loss to Texas, coach Neal Brown said Tuesday.

Donaldson remained on the ground after he was tackled on a short gain in the third quarter of Saturday’s 38-20 loss to the Longhorns. His helmet and shoulder pads were removed and he was carted off the field on a stretcher. After the game he was cleared to travel home with the team.

“He’s recovering,” Brown said. “There is a strict return-to-play (policy) that we have to follow here and I’m zero involved in it. All I do is ask the question. They don’t even start the return-to-play until they’re symptom free.”

Donaldson, a 240-pound freshman, leads the Mountaineers with 389 rushing yards and six touchdowns, with an average of 6.9 yards per carry.

West Virginia (2-3, 0-2 Big 12 Conference) is idle this week and hosts Baylor (3-2, 1-1) next Thursday, Oct. 13.

Taulia Tagovailoa says he visited brother, Tua, over weekend

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa was able to visit his brother, Tua, last weekend after the Terrapins’ game against Michigan State, he said Tuesday in his first comments to reporters since Tua left the Miami Dolphins’ game against Cincinnati last Thursday with a frightening head injury.

Taulia played in Maryland’s win over Michigan State on Saturday but was not made available to the media afterward. He said Tuesday he was able to go to Florida and spend some time with his brother, who suffered a concussion four days after taking a hit in another game but was cleared to return.

“He’s doing good, everything’s fine,” he said. “My biggest thing was just seeing him and spending as much time as I can with him. I came back Sunday night.”

Tagovailoa said he appreciates the support for his brother.

“My brother’s my heart. He’s someone I look up to, someone I talk to every day,” he said. “It was just a hard scene for me to see that.”

Tagovailoa said he was in constant contact with his mother about his brother’s situation, and he was finally able to talk to Tua on Friday night.

“I really just wanted to go there and just spend time with my family, hug them and stuff like that,” Taulia Tagovailoa said. “But he told me he’s a big fan of us, and he’d rather watch me play on Saturday. … After that phone call, I was happy and getting back to my normal routine.”

Tagovailoa indicated that his brother’s injury didn’t make him too nervous about his own health when he took the field again.

“I guess when that happens to someone like my brother, or when anything happens to one of my family members, I don’t really think of how it will be able to affect me,” he said. “I just think of: `Is he OK? How’s he doing?”‘

Although it was a short visit to Florida, he said he and Tua made the most of their chance to be together.

“I just wanted to make sure he’s healthy and stuff, which he is,” Taulia Tagovailoa said.