With the final minute of the third quarter winding down, Texas found itself trailing then-No. 17 TCU. Then, junior wide receiver Collin Johnson happened.
Sam Ehlinger took the snap with 49 seconds remaining in the third quarter, trailing 16-10. The sophomore quarterback dropped back to the 40 before heaving the ball toward Johnson, who was striding toward the end zone.
The throw appeared to be too long after the ball left Ehlinger fingertips, but the 6-foot-6-inch receiver dove after the ball, which landed between two TCU defenders and right into Johnson’s hands for a touchdown.
“I ran my post route, came out of my break and I saw the ball in the air and it was kind of far out in front of me,” Johnson said. “So I just did whatever I could to catch the ball and make a play for the team.”
Johnson’s touchdown comes after Devin Duvernay and Joshua Moore’s diving catches earlier this season. Coming into the season, Texas’ receivers were widely known as the most talented offensive unit. Through four games, they have rightfully maintained that title.
“(I’m) definitely spoiled, but I think that’s how it should be at the University of Texas,” Ehlinger said. “I think you should have guys like that to be able to go get the football. They’ve done an excellent job, and it’s a great advantage in the passing game knowing that one-on-one matchups aren’t covered for us.”
Last year, fans and media alike curiously wondered why Johnson sometimes struggled to get involved in the game. While it seems Johnson demanding the ball more often is a quick solution, it’s never that simple.
The combination of his massive stature and NFL-bound talent demand special attention from every defense the Longhorns play, usually translating to Texas’ opponents putting two defenders on No. 9.
“I don’t get to call the defenses, and so if they want to devote two people to covering him, then that makes getting the ball to him a little bit more difficult,” head coach Tom Herman said. “But the quarterback has done a nice job of recognizing when we get one-on-one coverage and getting the ball to him. And he’s done a nice job of making sure that when his number does get called he’s making those plays.”
One player has single-handedly helped Collin Johnson put together a breakout game: Lil’Jordan Humphrey. The 6-foot-4-inch receiver currently leads the team with 352 reception yards on the season.
Humphrey’s explosiveness forces defenses to pick their poison, giving Johnson more opportunities down the field. With Humphrey also demanding attention from defenses, Johnson was able to finish with 124 yards on seven receptions in Texas’ 31-16 upset victory over the Horned Frogs on Saturday. One week earlier, Johnson hauled in six catches for 79 yards.
“He’s had a good couple of weeks, no doubt about that,” Herman said. “He’s one of the best one-on-one, 50/50-ball guys I’ve ever been around, I would certainly imagine probably in the country right now.”
Texas now prepares to take on Kansas State. After Bill Snyder’s squad gave up 35 points to West Virginia, look for Johnson, Humphrey and Ehlinger to continue their dominant ways for a third-consecutive week.