Sometimes, when youth is served, it pays off. Ask Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett about that and see him smile.
Rookie Devonte Holloman's 75-yard interception return with a tipped pass keyed the Cowboys' 24-20 victory over the Miami Dolphins in the Hall of Fame game Sunday night that opened the NFL's preseason.
Dallas also got a strong effort from its relatively inexperienced running backs, from some youngsters on the offensive line, and by a defense making the switch to the 4-3 alignment under new coordinator Monte Kiffin.
"Any time you can give young players an extra chance to play in a game, they grow," Garrett said. "With an extra preseason game, it makes sense to give those young guys an opportunity to play."
Hollomon, a sixth-round pick from South Carolina was perfectly situated when rookie Chad Bumphis had Matt Moore's pass go off his hands in the second quarter.
"I thought about it the whole way here and it actually happened," he said of making a big play, after which he got his "first handshake from coach Garrett."
The linebacker sped toward the end zone with a group of blockers escorting him, and after he scored he tightly clutched the ball as he headed to the Dallas sideline. "I had a celebration in my mind, but I was overwhelmed and decided to celebrate with my teammates," he said.
"It was fantastic, a really great play from him," Garrett said. "We were swarming to the football, had a lot of guys around the quarterback, and then the ball pops in the air and he makes a great play and great run."
Bumphis otherwise had a strong game with five receptions for 85 yards. "I feel like I can create mismatches in the slot," said Bumphis, who was undrafted out of Mississippi State. "Just get open. I'm a good receiver when it comes to getting in and out of my breaks, and that's where I feel like I'm my best."
The Cowboys controlled most of the game one night after their former offensive lineman, Larry Allen, and former coach, Bill Parcells, were inducted into the hall.
Quarterback Tony Romo, coming off back surgery to remove a cyst, sat out for Dallas. So the Cowboys turned to their ground game -- and ground down Miami as few regulars got onto the field.
Miami's mistakes were decisive. They struggled most of the night against Dallas' new defense masterminded by Kiffin, the man who designed the Tampa 2 scheme so prevalent throughout the NFL.
Although top running back DeMarco Murray was held out, the Cowboys were dominant on the ground. Phillip Tanner did the bulk of the early work and finished with 59 yards and a touchdown. Joseph Randle handled the late duty and had 70 yards as Dallas piled up 170 yards rushing.
"We're trying to get an identity as a group," Tanner said. "We had `Coach' DeMarco on the sideline telling us to just go out and play."
Allen, Parcells and the other five inductees -- Cris Carter, Jonathan Ogden, Warren Sapp, Curley Culp and Dave Robinson -- were on hand and were honored again before the game. Parcells, who coached Dallas and was an executive for the Dolphins in his final two NFL stops, walked through a line of players from both teams, pointing and exchanging barbs and smiles with them.
Soon after, Dallas led 7-0 on Tanner's 1-yard run. The Cowboys were set up at the Miami 9 when Ryan Tannehill botched a handoff to Lamar Miller on the Dolphins' first offensive play and Nick Hayden recovered.
Tanner soon departed with a left arm injury, but returned and ran over and through Miami's defense. Dallas moved the ball well in offensive coordinator Bill Callahan's first outing as its play caller; those duties were taken away from head coach Jason Garrett in the offseason. Of course, few starters ever made it onto the field for either side.
Dan Bailey's 49-yard field goal made it 10-0, then Holloman made his long sprint to the end zone.
Dan Carpenter kicked a 27-yard field goal for Miami, which used Tannehill for only 10 snaps before Moore came in. Third-string QB Pat Devlin hit rookie Keenan Davis with a 5-yard TD pass on fourth down in the final period, making it 17-10, and Carpenter added a 45-yarder.
But rookie Kendial Lawrence ran in from 7 yards with 1:57 left to clinch it for Dallas, even though Moore returned and added a 5-yard TD pass to Kyle Miller with 16 seconds to go.
Defensive end Dion Jordan, the third overall pick in the draft, had little impact for the Dolphins.
"I thought we'd play better," a clearly disappointed coach Joe Philbin said.