Johnson stars on offense, struggles on special teams against Ole Miss

The redshirt senior had eight catches for 110 yards, but also two major blunders in the return game.
Redshirt senior Johnathon Johnson runs the ball downfield after catching a pass from quarterback Kelly Bryant during Missouri's Oct. 12 win over Ole Miss. Johnson had 110 receiving yards. Photo by Madeline Carter

As junior Mac Brown’s punt sailed through the air, Missouri wide receiver Johnathon Johnson positioned himself in anticipation for a return.

It looked like any other mundane punt until the ball hit Johnson between the numbers on the front of his jersey and fell to the ground. Ole Miss recovered and scored the first touchdown of the game six plays later.

Johnson would also recover, on offense at least. Special teams remained a struggle.

“I knew I had to step up in other ways to try to get our offense going, just try to pick myself up and just get me going,” he said.

On Missouri’s first possession after the Rebels’ score, Johnson caught three passes for 28 yards, including a 23-yard connection with quarterback Kelly Bryant to push the Tigers into Mississippi territory. Missouri wound up with a field goal.

“It was just about our offense,” Johnson said. “We were just out there executing plays. We [are] doing the best that we can do as an offense. Just making sure we keep our foot on the gas and make sure we ain’t letting up and just keep going.”

The redshirt senior ended the night with eight catches for a season-high 110 yards, 73 of which came in the first half.

“Big-time performance,” coach Barry Odom said. “He’s a gritty player. [He] has made a lot of plays for Mizzou over the years and tonight was one of his biggest nights.”

As big of a performance he had offensively, however, Johnson never recovered on special teams after his initial blunder.

After his first quarter mishap, Johnson was relieved of his punt returning duties for the rest of the night, replaced by redshirt freshman receiver Cade Musser.

Johnson continued to return kickoffs though, and arguably the lowlight of his game came on one in the fourth quarter.

Seeing that junior Luke Logan’s kick wouldn’t make it to the end zone, Johnson called for a fair catch. Unable to get in position to catch the ball on the fly, he let it bounce, hoping it would roll into the end zone. It didn’t, forcing Johnson to pick it up and — in a momentary lapse of judgement — kneel the ball down on the one yard line.

“I thought it was gonna bounce in the end zone,” he said. “It didn’t bounce in the end zone. I wanted to pick it up and run it, but it was one of those crazy moments, so I’m just thinking too much, so I end up taking a knee on the one.”

Despite his tumultuous night on special teams, Johnson’s contributions on offense have been a staple at Faurot Field for the last four years. Saturday’s 110 yards vaulted Johnson from 10th to seventh on the all-time Missouri receiving list, passing T.J. Moe, Victor Bailey and William Franklin.

“I just go out there and play,” Johnson said. “I mean, I don’t look at the records and all this stuff. I just keep playing and listen to what the people tell me after the game. It’s a blessing to be able to come from 10 to seven, so I just look at every opportunity I’m given [as] a blessing.”

Edited by Emily Leiker | eleiker@themaneater.com

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