Sophomore Johnson impresses on Senior Day
The Marshall University football team secured a spot in the Conference USA Championship game for the first time in 10 years after Friday’s game. The 59-28 win over East Carolina University clinched the East Division title and ended the Herd’s regular season on a positive note.
Senior Day celebrations didn’t stop sophomore tight end Devon Johnson from shining. The Richlands, Va., native was responsible for 18 points on the scoreboard with three touchdowns and 64 total offensive yards. Johnson scored two 2-yard rushes in the first half and caught a 52-yard pass he was able to run in for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Although a modest Johnson takes little credit for his team’s victory, he said being a part of such a golden opportunity is indescribable.
“I have an amazing team who works hard and has my back at all times,” Johnson said. “Being in this moment with all of them is what our goal has been all along. That’s what I play for. There’s nothing that can feel better than this.”
All season long, Marshall and ECU had been neck as neck for the number one spot in the East, with memories of last season’s double-overtime battle on the forefront.
Johnson said being able to clinch revenge over the Pirates is gratifying in many ways.
“Beating ECU for the division title is definitely a good feeling,” Johnson said. “But it doesn’t matter if it’s ECU, Rice, Tulane, Tulsa, whoever. We don’t care what name is on their jersey. The only one we care about is the name on ours. We’re not here to beat ECU or get revenge. We’re here to win championships.”
Johnson and his team will face Rice University, the winner of the West Division, in the C-USA Championship game Saturday. The last time the Herd played for a championship title was back in 2002 when Bob Pruett and his team became the Mid-American Conference champions.
Johnson said there are many things he credits for his team’s success this season.
“First of all the coaches have done a great job with us,” Johnson said. “They’re always pushing us and believing in us and have gotten us this far. The only other thing I can say is hard work pays off.”
Johnson isn’t the only one with thoughts along these lines. Head coach Doc Holliday seems to be on the same page.
“Devon Johnson is a really good football player,” Holliday said. “I’ve been saying that all along. He’s a tremendous young talent and the coaches have done a great job building him up. He’s getting more confidence and it seems that whenever we can get him the ball, he can run.”
Teammate Rakeen Cato, who was 17-of-28 with two touchdowns and one interception, also had only good things to say about Johnson.
“I’m so eager to hand the ball off to him and watch him run,” Cato said. “He surprises people, but as far as our team’s standpoint he’s doing that all the time. He has great hands and is probably one of the top players on our offense.”
Friday’s game marked the Herd’s fifth straight 500-yard offensive game, a stat that Johnson contributed to. The win also helped cap the team’s finish to an undefeated season at home, something that hasn’t happened since the 2002 season.
Johnson said despite what they’ve accomplished up until this point, he’s excited for what lies ahead.
“People have been talking about building this team and this program up for years,” Johnson said. “It’s definitely been a struggle but we’ve conquered it. We’ve got so many people and fans that have our back, and I just want to go out there and make them proud. I want to win this one and keep moving forward. As far as I’m concerned, this is only the beginning.”
After the release of the BCS rankings, it was determined that West Division champion Rice will host East Division champion Marshall in Houston, Texas, in the 2013 C-USA Football Championship Game Saturday. The Championship Game will be televised live on ESPN 2, beginning at noon.
Karlyn Timko can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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