Life of Brian: When life gives you lemons

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

The season opener against Oregon State couldn’t have gone worse for the Utes. They lost the game 24-7, their starting running back Matt Asiata suffered a season-ending injury and, perhaps, most importantly, quarterback Brian Johnson separated his throwing shoulder midway through the second quarter.

The Utah offense seemed to be stagnant after Johnson’s departure, unable to rush or pass the ball. The lack of efficiency on offense led to way too much possession time for the Beavers’ offense, and the result was a season-opening loss.

Johnson, who sat out all of last season because of a knee injury, will find himself in a very familiar spot tomorrow when the Utes play host to Air Force in their home-opener — cheering his team on from the sidelines.

The good news for Utah fans is that Johnson was back on the field Wednesday to test his throwing shoulder. The Daily Utah Chronicle caught up with Johnson after practice to talk with him about the injury and how the rehab is going.

The Chronicle: You’re not having too much luck with injuries, are you?

Johnson: I’m really not.

The Chronicle: Could you talk a little bit about the play where you were injured?

Johnson: We ran an option to the right and I got tackled when I cut it up-field. My shoulder hit the ground and a defensive tackle landed on me at the same time. It was a big, 300-pound guy.

The Chronicle: Yeah, that probably didn’t feel too good. But didn’t you throw a pass after the injury?

Johnson: Yeah I did, but I don’t have any idea how I did it. If you watch the tape, I just kind of halfway flung it out there and didn’t really have anything on it.

The Chronicle: So, it was hurting pretty bad at that point?

Johnson: Yeah, it was. I was just trying to figure out a way to get it out.

The Chronicle: After you left the game, the Utes had quite a bit of trouble moving the ball. What do you attribute that to?

Johnson: We just got to find a way to make a play. I don’t know if it’s one particular factor. We just have to find a way to play 11-man football and get all 11 guys on the same page and make some plays. Whether it be offensive line, quarterback, wide receiver or tailback, somebody has to find a way to step up and make some plays.

The Chronicle: I saw you out there throwing the football around today. What are they having you do and what’s the timetable for your return?

Johnson: I’m feeling pretty good. I’ve been really aggressive with my rehab and I came out here and worked pretty hard in practice throwing my first few balls. I couldn’t really get much on it, but getting my motion back and getting my range back is really positive.

The Chronicle: Everybody is saying three to five weeks, but you know what your arm can do better than anybody else. What’s a realistic return date? The UCLA game?

Johnson: I think that’s pretty accurate, but obviously I would like to get back out there a lot quicker. I would like to think UCLA is a definite possibility. As long as I keep making improvements and get better every day, it could happen. It’s kind of tough to say right now, but that would be nice.

The Chronicle: You’re obviously a better runner and probably a more accurate passer than Tommy (Grady), but what do you think he does better than you?

Johnson: Tommy definitely has a strong arm. He can throw the ball with the best of them. He just has to get comfortable in the game and get a couple of completions early and he’ll be fine.

The Chronicle: I was going to ask, what have you been doing to help Tommy prepare for his first collegiate start?

Johnson: Just to go out there and play, you know. He can’t worry about all those external things. He just has to go out there and focus on what he needs to get done and everything else will take care of itself.

The Chronicle: You’re right back on the sidelines where you were all of last year. What’s this week been like for you up to this point?

Johnson: It’s been really frustrating for me. I thought I was playing really well in the Oregon State game before the injury, but that’s just part of the game. It’s just been frustrating because I’ve prepared so hard for this season, but you never know, it might be a blessing in disguise.

The Chronicle: Finish this thought for me: The Utes will beat Air Force if??

Johnson: We’ve got to put points on the board — bottom line. Those guys won’t quit. Those guys are trained to fight to the end, so we have to come out and play 60 minutes of solid football.

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