tampabay.com

Bull-headed Johnson excels

No-quit receiver dodges six defenders on TD run, then calls his own play for the tying score.

By MIKE CAMUNAS
Published September 10, 2006


TAMPA - By any measure, sophomore receiver Taurus Johnson shouldn't even have had a touchdown in the Bulls' 21-20 win Saturday against Florida International.

The Cape Coral native not only scored a crucial touchdown in the third quarter with USF down 20-7, but he had the tying score as well.

With less than five minutes left in the third, Johnson found his No. 89 being called by offensive coordinator Rod Smith on a reverse just 14 yards from the Bulls end zone.

"When my number got called, I was so nervous," Johnson said. "I knew I had to make a move, make a play and score."

But once Johnson got the ball, he should have been tackled by FIU defensive end Antwan Barnes for a 7-yard loss. Johnson, however, broke free, used his right hand to keep himself up and broke away from five other players to dive in.

"I was really just trying to hold on to the ball," Johnson said. "When he hit me, I just put my hand on the ground and I just didn't want to go down."

Coach Jim Leavitt said Johnson should not have scored on the play.

"That was pure desire and determination that got him in there," Leavitt said. "It was a great play."

Johnson, who had three catches for 35 yards coming into the game, led all Bulls receivers with six catches for 106 yards. But his last catch made the difference.

After a fumble recovery by nose tackle Richard Clebert, USF was on its 29-yard line with 2:45 left.

On second down, Johnson saw something.

"The safety was cheating," Johnson said. "The wheel route goes right past him. I told Coach (Smith) we should run the demon route through the Cover 2 they were running and throw it to me. We - me and (quarterback) Matt (Grothe) - do it every day in practice.

Grothe said Johnson knew all along the play would score.

"When we broke that huddle, he said to me, 'I'm going to be open.' " Grothe said. "I told him, 'I know.' I saw the coverage he said and got it to him."

Grothe was glad he could get Johnson his first career touchdown reception.

"We were joking all week long in practice that he wanted to get his first touchdown," said Grothe, who threw for 174 yards. "It was kind of weird how it fell into place for him - for us. I just didn't want to get excessive celebration. They were jumping on (Johnson), and I was pulling them all off him."