Lost In The Shuffle

Will Johnson

Will Johnson made one of the biggest plays in West Virginia's comeback win on Friday night, but for some reason he was overlooked in the post-game hoopla.

Geno Smith received much-deserved interest, as did usual suspects, such as Noel Devine, Tavon Austin and J.T. Thomas. But the player that caught the tying touchdown pass wasn't even requested for an interview until late in the post game proceedings.

That Will Johnson could have been overlooked seems a bit strange, because he made the most acrobatic catch of the game, not to mention at one of its most critical junctures. Running along the back of the end zone, Johnson headed toward the pylon at the back right corner. Spotting him running free, quarterback Geno Smith lofted a high pass that appeared to be out of reach, until Johnson leaped high to snare the ball, then dragged not one but both feet inbounds to bring WVU within two points of a tie.

"There wasn't any adjustment on the route," the soft-spoken Johnson said to a lone media member following the game. "It was a quick play we ran after Noel carried the ball. We come back and I do a corner route, and I knew they were in a zone and pushing up, so I knew I would be open in the back of the end zone. It was just a matter of getting my feet down. I had to watch it I knew it was close, but I didn't know if I was in or not until I watched it on the replay."

Johnson was close to the back line, but clearly inbounds after making the catch. One of his major keys on the route came into play in making the catch and staying in the field of play.

"Keeping the spacing [along the back of the end zone] is something we go over in practice," Johnson explained. "I go to the back pylon, and it worked out for us. That was the best catch I ever made."

With all that followed Johnson's big catch, however, including Jock Sanders' two-point conversion reception and a narrow miss of a Marshall field goal attempt to end the game, his career highlight almost got lost. That's become sort of part for the course for the backup tight end, who always seems to be a bit overshadowed.

"I hope that I gained the confidence of the coaches today. I hope that they think they can use me more," he said. "When Tyler Urban comes back, I know he's the guy, he's obviously the starter. But I hope they use me more and get me more involved."

While West Virginia obviously missed the blocking ability of Urban, it just as clearly has a weapon in Johnson that it can make use of. The athletic tight end had two catches for 21 yards against the Herd, and also got downfield for a 22-yard catch in the season opener against Coastal Carolina. If on-field performance is all that remained to earn the coaches' trust, then Johnson certainly has done that. He only hopes that they paid more attention than most observers last Friday night.

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