Johnson having great season despite mistakes

By By Tony Pizza, Sports Editor

By Tony Pizza, Sports Editor

Numbers are tricky things and often lie. George Gallup, the American pioneer of sample surveying said, “I could prove God, statistically.”

Those funny little digits could be used to suggest that Brian Johnson has had an amazing season thus far8212;one that rivals 2005, where his 151.01 passing rating was best in the conference and 11th best in the country. Johnson’s 2008 quarterback rating through six games is just a shade under that mark at 148.49. According to that, Johnson is having a darn fine season.

There is, however, one set of numbers that doesn’t lie.
Johnson has nine turnovers through six games, including six interceptions that have been equally distributed among every game he’s suited up for this season. Utah’s senior quarterback will be the first to tell you how frustrating those turnovers have been.

“I can’t have that on my hands,” Johnson said. “I didn’t want to be the reason this team loses a football game.”
Although all turnovers are about as desirable as a cold sore, some of Johnson’s mistakes have resulted in major blemishes. Three of Johnson’s interceptions have come in their opponent’s end zone, including the opener against Michigan and on the road against Air Force. But even those three turnovers have yet to be as costly as two of his fumbles.

Against both Air Force and Oregon State, a Johnson fumble has been recovered for a touchdown. His other untimely fumble, which also came against Oregon State, came on the opening drive of the second half with Utah holding on to a 20-15 lead. The short field allowed the Beavers to jump ahead by one point.

“I knew, obviously, that I didn’t play well for the first three quarters of the game,” Johnson said.
“The pass game killed us,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said after his team’s win over Oregon State. “Offensively, we had a couple turnovers again. We lost the turnover battle, which is something we’ve got to get corrected.”

With all that has gone wrong for Johnson, the one thing that remains right is the Utes’ perfect record8212;and then there is that 148.29 quarterback rating. The Texas native has managed to complete two-thirds of his passes (109-for-163) and averages 221.7 yards per contest to go along with his 10 passing touchdowns8212;and then there is the two magical minutes that Johnson reeled off just over a week ago.

“We got a little peak at what we can do,” said wideout Bradon Godfrey, one of Johnson’s favorite receivers, of Utah’s last minute drive against Oregon State. “We just need to be more consistent throughout the whole fourth quarter, the whole third quarter, instead of waiting until the last drive.”

Although Johnson’s interception numbers certainly don’t reflect the maturity that one would expect a three-year starting senior to have, his injuries and his offensive line certainly have contributed to some of the mistakes. Opponents are averaging better than 2.5 sacks on Johnson this season. That’s up from a sliver more than two sacks per game in 2007.

Another interesting side note: Johnson has never had an out-of-this-world touchdown-to-turnover ratio. In 2005 it was up around 2.5-to-1, but last season he had just 1.1 touchdowns for every interception.

Utah’s record, despite the unprecedented turnover ratio, begs the question of how dominant Utah would have been had those mistakes been cleaned up. The good news for fans and the team alike is that the Utes have managed to land a sexy 6-0 record, along with an attractive No. 14 ranking in the AP polls despite the blemishes. Prom on Nov. 22 is still more than a month away, but the Utes8212;and particularly Johnson8212;can manage to tie up the shoe laces and apply the acne cream where applicable.

“That’s the best thing about football, you always have a chance to make it right,” Johnson said.
That sentiment probably couldn’t be a more apt motto for the second half of the season.
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