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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Johnson thrives in tight situations

By Bryan Chouinard

It’s hard to define clutch.

You can’t see it, you can’t touch it, it’s not a stat and you can’t measure it. All we know is there are clutch situations and clutch players who take their game to the next level in the moments that define both games and seasons. When we think of clutch, we often think along the lines of Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter or Tom Brady8212;it’s now time to start thinking of Brian Johnson.

Now don’t get me wrong8212;with 13 championships between the three of them, Jordan, Jeter and Brady are some of the best players to ever play their respective games. All I’m saying is that what Jordan meant to the Bulls or Brady to the Patriots, Johnson is to the Utes.

Just a friendly reminder, Utah fans: the Utes are 11-0 and Saturday will have a chance to re-create the magic of 2004. It hasn’t always been pretty along the way. There have been close calls and there have been blowouts, but no matter the fashion, Johnson and the Utes have walked away with the “W.”

In what was arguably Utah’s closest call of the year against Oregon State, Johnson went 17-for-30 for 201 yards, with an interception and two touchdowns. It’s not his best performance of the year by far, but what that stat line doesn’t show is that with two minutes and 11 seconds left in the game, down seven, Johnson led the Utes on a 60-yard, equalizing touchdown drive that lasted four plays and took only 42 seconds.

But Johnson wasn’t done yet. The Beavers were forced to punt the ball away after a three-and-out due to an inspired series by the Utah defense. With one minute and six seconds left on the clock and the ball on the Utah 45-yard line, it was up to Johnson to orchestrate the game-winning drive, and that’s exactly what he did8212;setting up Louie Sakoda leading the 37-yard field goal.

Obviously, it was Sakoda who sealed the deal for Utah, but without Johnson being near-perfect on his final two drives, “King” Louie would never have had a shot at the game-winner. Ute fans learned a lot about their starting quarterback that night. Up against an Oregon State team that was fresh off a win against Pac-10 powerhouse and then-No. 1 USC, Johnson exuded the character and resiliency of a winner.

That was clutch.

Johnson again showed us what he was made of in the highly-publicized “Blackout” game against then-No. 11 TCU. All the story lines coming into the game revolved around the mighty TCU defense, with many predicting TCU would be too much for Utah to handle. However, when push came to shove, Johnson stepped up and led the Utes to victory.

Utah found itself down four with two minutes and 48 seconds left on its own 20-yard line. Once again, Johnson knew it was his time to shine as he marched the Utah offense 80 yards down the field in just nine plays to put the Utes up 13-10.

In what some are calling the biggest game ever at Rice-Eccles Stadium, the fifth-year senior was able to put all the hype and story lines behind him. He didn’t care that one of the nation’s top defenses stood between him and the end zone 80 yards away. All he cared about was winning and he knew that if it was going to happen, he would be the one who would have to lead Utah down the field.

That was clutch.

Rather than crumbling under the pressure when his teammates, fans and coaches needed him most, Johnson elevated his game and did whatever it took to win.

Johnson thrives in these situations8212;just as Jordan did8212;and while Johnson is certainly no Jeter or Brady, every time Johnson’s number has been called, he has risen to the challenge and emerged victorious.

Now that’s clutch.

[email protected]

Bryan Chouinard

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