Darnay Holmes cradled the kickoff in his arms and zigzagged across the field, running one way and then another. It quickly became apparent that no one was going to stop him.
Holmes returned the kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter Saturday afternoon at the Rose Bowl during UCLA’s 49-42 loss to Stanford, a rarity in recent seasons for the Bruins’ special teams.
It was the Bruins’ first kickoff return for a touchdown since Ishmael Adams brought one back 100 yards against Arizona State in 2014.
The play was set up by another UCLA oddity.
Defensive lineman Martin Andrus Jr. ran untouched into the Stanford backfield on the previous play, smashing into Cardinal tailback Bryce Love in the end zone for a safety.
Stanford was forced to kick off from its 20-yard line as a result, increasing Holmes’ chance for a good return. He made the most of it.
“Once I got to the kicker,” Holmes said, “I knew it was going to be a special play.”
Holmes said the return was redemption for giving up a touchdown to Stanford receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who victimized a handful of Bruins on his way to seven catches for 106 yards and three touchdowns.
“I gave up the touchdown,” Holmes said, “so I feel like I gotta do what I gotta do to make sure we can get on the board. So each and every time I got to touch the rock, I just want to make sure that [coach] Chip [Kelly] doesn’t have to call another play.”
Not so special
UCLA’s beleaguered special teams suffered another breakdown when Stanford’s Cameron Scarlett returned a kickoff 74 yards with only 25 seconds left before halftime.
The Cardinal eventually moved the ball to the Bruins’ two-yard line, thanks to pass interference penalties on Holmes and fellow UCLA defensive back Elijah Gates before a pass fell incomplete and Stanford kicked a field goal.
“Your kickoff team’s got to be better,” Kelly said. “It’s obviously a depth issue for us. We’ve got to do a better job there kicking it.”
UCLA’s seniors and graduate transfer quarterback Wilton Speight were recognized before their final college game. They ran onto the field between two lines of teammates and hugged Kelly before being given flowers to present to their parents.
Redshirt junior receiver Stephen Johnson III also participated in the ceremony, but graduate transfer Justin Murphy did not. Murphy has petitioned the NCAA for another season of eligibility.