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This Week in Blue Raider FB: Holcomb sets record

Holcomb sets school record completion percentage in 1994

October 30, 2013 · @MTAthletics

October 29, 1994 - Kelly Holcomb sets impressive record

Sports are known for great records. The 1972 Miami Dolphins have their 17-0 record, Roger Maris breaking Babe Ruth's home run record of 60 with his 61st on the final day of the season and Bill Walton shooting 21-of-22 from the floor in the 1973 NCAA Title game against Memphis State.

Middle Tennessee also has a Walton-esque streak. In 1994, Blue Raider quarterback Kelly Holcomb went a school-record 21-of-23 passing against Jacksonville State on October 29. The performance led Middle Tennessee to a 45-37 victory over the Gamecocks to keep the drive for five playoff appearances in six years alive.

The Blue Raiders entered the game with a 5-2 record and ranked 19th in the NCAA Division 1-AA national poll. They were hot, coming in on a three-game winning streak in which they defeated their opponents by an average score of 46-9. Kelly Holcomb was in the midst of one of the greatest seasons, and careers, in Blue Raider history.

Holcomb's name is all over the Blue Raider record book. It graces the pages 25 different times, and he ranks in the top five in 14 different categories. These include first in career yards per pass and third in career passing attempts, career passing completions and career passing yards.

Entering the game, the only losses the Blue Raiders had suffered were to two top 10-ranked teams, James Madison and Eastern Kentucky. Both loses were also by a total of three points. However, with the Colonels looking to wrap up the Ohio Valley Conference title, and automatic bid to the playoffs, Middle Tennessee would nearly have to win-out to make the post-season.

The Gamecocks were 4-3 coming in, transitioning to Division 1-AA, and beat 1-A member Northeast Louisiana (now ULM) the week before. They also had an explosive offense, averaging 240 yards on the ground per game entering the contest.

Jacksonville State's offense presented issues for the Middle Tennessee defense. They scored 37 points and racked up 538 total yards, 304 of them on the ground. But Holcomb and the Blue Raider offense stood up to the challenge. They were outgained by the Gamecocks, as Middle Tennessee gained 527 yards of total offense, but they took advantage of 14 Jacksonville State penalties to prevail in the seesaw game.

Middle Tennessee gave up the first score, but roared to 21 unanswered points in the second quarter, leading 21-7 and looking to have control going into halftime. But Gamecock running back Eric Powell scored a 40-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 21-14 at the break.

After a turnover gave Jacksonville State the opportunity to tie the game at 21, the Blue Raiders marched 75 yards to retake the lead. The big play of the drive was a 50-yard completion from Holcomb to Robbie Roberts, moving the ball to the Gamecock 20 yard-line.

Jacksonville State cut the lead to 28-24 with a field goal on their next possession. Then the Blue Raiders came back with a field goal of their own, but another Gamecock touchdown tied the score at 31-31. Two more Blue Raider touchdowns gave them some breathing room at 45-31, before the final touchdown by the Gamecocks made the final score 45-37.

Holcomb's 21-23 passing on the day set the school record for completion percentage in a game at 91.3 percent. This is a mark that still stands today. His great Middle Tennessee career spawned a 13-year NFL career during which he played for five different teams. The Lincoln County, Tenn., native was also elected to the Blue Raider Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 2013.

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