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November 18, 2006To pass and catch seems simple enough, but in Saturday's contest between Texas Tech (7-5, 4-3 Big 12) and Oklahoma State (6-5, 3-4) one team's ability to complete the latter part of that scenario proved to play a major role in the eventual 30-24 Red Raider victory.
Since Tech coach Mike Leach's arrival in 2000, the Red Raiders have relied on a pass heavy attack that requires a core of talented receivers and this year's group has been touted as one of the best in the nation. Each week it seems a different wideout has the ability to step up and make a difference.
It could be one of the talented senior trio in Jarrett Hicks, Joel Filani, or an underclassman such as Danny Amendola or L.A. Reed. On this particular afternoon, Johnson came calling for the Red Raiders.
With the offense stalling throughout the first and most of the second quarters, Tech was in need of a spark. With 11 seconds remaining in the first half, that spark came in the form of an eight-yard touchdown strike from sophomore quarterback Graham Harrell to Johnson, brining the Raiders within a touchdown after digging themselves an early 17-0 hole.
Johnson wasn't finished as he obviously carried the momentum from his first score into the second half as he again connected with Harrell just three minutes into the third quarter, this time a 24-yarder. The senior inside receiver's second score of the day evened the score at 17 a piece and was also the beginning of a 17-point third quarter for the Red Raiders from which they wouldn't look back.
Harrell acknowledged the fact that when Johnson is involved in the offense, it's likely to be a long day for the opposing defense.
"It makes a big difference, you saw it," he said. "When we were flat, he was flat, when we got going it kind of gave him a spark and all of a sudden he starts playing well. The results were obvious, he got two touchdowns in a mater of no time."
The key contribution Tech received from Johnson was something the Cowboys found themselves lacking throughout the day. On numerous occasions State quarterback Bobby Reid was able to find open targets for first downs and big yardage, only to see the ball bounce of the hands of his wideouts.
Cowboys receiver Adarius Brown, who finished the day with four catches for 85 yards and a touchdown, didn't have a reason for the errors.
"We came out there and had several dropped balls," he said, "but I feel as if we still put ourselves in an opportunity to win the game."
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, pointed out several areas his Cowboys did not perform to expectation Saturday and noted that the drops by his receivers was certainly one of them.
"We had way too many dropped passes on offense. I don't know how many there were, probably five or six," he said. "We haven't had more than a drop or two in probably six weeks. If you drop passes, you don't convert big plays."
Fortunately, for the Red Raiders, who now play the waiting game with the bowl selection process, one more time they found someone who could convert the `big plays' Gundy referred to.
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