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September 10, 2006

Johnson, Grothe come through in a pinch

They'll be counted on to make plenty more plays together during their USF careers, so perhaps the present was simply just a glimpse at the Bulls' offensive future under Matt Grothe and Taurus Johnson.

A highlight-reel, 14-yard touchdown run by Johnson in the third quarter and a Grothe-to-Johnson 29-yard touchdown pass in the waning minutes saved the Bulls on Saturday night from what would have been the program's most embarrassing defeat ever. Those two snaps also may have solidified the playmaker status of a pair of talented youngsters.

"I had no idea the coaches would call my number as many times as they did, but I'm glad they gave me a chance to see what I could do," said Johnson, who finished the night with six receptions for 106 yards.

Jaw-dropping is the only way to describe his third-quarter score on a reverse - a run reminiscent of Amarri Jackson's weaving effort a season ago against Cincinnati. After taking the handoff from Grothe, Johnson was immediately confronted by FIU defensive end Antwan Barnes. The rest was a blur of motion, speed and desire that left five Golden Panthers who had a chance at the tackle shaking their heads.

"When they called the reverse, I said, I've got to get in the end zone. When I first got the ball, I saw Barnes sitting right there and I knew I had to make a move. I gave him a little spin move and when he hit me I put my hand down and continued to cut. Then I just kept running. It was a great feeling," Johnson said.

"As soon as I did that, I was like 'Wow, I didn't think this would happen, but it did!' I was just smiling. I made a run like that once in high school, but this is college right here."

Grothe admitted that he had given up on the play as soon as Barnes made the initial attempt to bring Johnson to the turf.

"Coach was doing a hurry up offense and the last thing I was thinking was a reverse. When he finally called it and we ran it, I saw Taurus get hit and I looked up and I thought 'Crap, third down.' That was it. When I looked back down, Taurus broke off and I just yelled "go, go!"

If Johnson's first touchdown play of the night was the most spectacular, his second may end up being the most memorable at season's end. With the Bulls staring an inexcusable defeat squarely in the face, Johnson streaked down the left sideline and hauled in a perfectly thrown ball that saved the day - and perhaps the season - for USF.

According to Johnson, it was a call that he had more than a little input in making.

"We discussed it on the sideline and I told coach (Rod Smith) we should do a wheel route because the safety was cheating. He was tight," Johnson said. "Coach said, all right, we'll give it a shot. Grothe saw it and threw the ball right on the money."

Said Grothe: "We ran it once earlier when Ean (Randolph) was in the game. He caught it, but it was out of bounds. I knew it was going to be open again. When we were breaking the huddle, (Taurus) said, 'I'm going to be open.' I said, 'I know.' I saw it, I threw it, he caught it and we won.

"Taurus is a good athlete and a good player. We were joking all week about how he wanted to get his first touchdown. It just fell in place. It's sorta weird."


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