At the beginning of the season Andre Johnson and the Miami receiving core were the Hurricanes’ biggest question mark. At the Rose Bowl they became the answer.
Johnson and Co. led the Hurricanes to 362 yards passing – a Miami bowl record. Johnson led the Hurricanes with seven receptions for 199 yards (also a Miami bowl record).
For Johnson, it was the culmination of a quiet, yet productive season. During the regular season, Johnson caught 37 passes for a team high 682 yards and 10 touchdowns yet did not receive much national attention due to the balance of the Hurricane offense.
After his Rose Bowl performance, Johnson is being considered among the nation’s finest receivers in the game.
“Andre Johnson is just a hell of a player,” Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey said after the Rose Bowl.
But if you ask any of the Hurricane players or coaching staff they already knew that.
Johnson was receiving praise before the season started from wide receiver coach Curtis Johnson.
“Andre has great speed and size,” Curtis Johnson said back in spring practice. “He reminds me a lot of Michael Irvin and Reggie Wayne.”
Curtis Johnson’s only concern, like many others, was the wide receiver’s inexperience. But right away, Andre Johnson erased many doubts with strong performances early in the season. Johnson had four receptions for 69 yards against Penn State and a 104-yard performance against Rutgers.
Despite the impressive numbers, Johnson still wasn’t known on a national level until his five-reception performance against Florida State, which led to 111 yards and two touchdowns.
After that game, Johnson’s numbers decreased, but that was only because the respect for Johnson rose. Teams were forced to double cover him due to his 6-3 size and blazing speed. Those qualities are so dangerous that a writer once dubbed him ‘the specimen’, claiming that it was what every recruiter dreamed of and what every defensive back feared.
While defenses were trying to figure out ways to shut down Johnson, much of the attention in the offensive scheme shifted to tight end Jeremy Shockey, who led the Canes with 40 receptions for 519 yards and seven touchdowns.
While Shockey received most of the recognition, Johnson quietly picked apart any defense that didn’t show respect for him (or have the athletes to stop him).
Against Syracuse, Johnson had arguably his best statistical performance with four receptions for 116 yards and two touchdowns. He followed it up a week later with four receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown against Washington.
Despite all of this, many still believed that the wide receivers were the ones to test in the Miami offense. A dropped pass here or there was still not out of the question due to their relative inexperience. Johnson, a red-shirt sophomore, was one of the most experienced wide receivers entering the season for Miami despite having caught just three passes for 57 yards in his collegiate career.
But Johnson led UM’s wide outs to a spectacular performance in the Rose Bowl – catching everything in sight while burning the Huskers’ defensive backs.
“Our wide receivers felt we were being overlooked, so I felt I had something to prove,” Johnson said.
Case and point taken.
Next year no one will question Johnson and the wide receiving core at Miami, who lose just one player (Daryl Jones) to graduation. But a new question has risen around the group – even with the respect, can anyone stop them?