The Anniversary of Michael Johnson's big catch

ATHENS - On the biggest touchdowns of Georgia's 2002 season, wasn't called with the expectations of resulting in one.

Touchdown was the name of the last-minute, have-to-score play Georgia had practiced heading into last year's game against Auburn. However, when he was faced with a fourth-and-15 from the Tigers' 19-yard line with less than two minutes to go in the biggest game of his career, Coach Mark Richt went with his gut.

Instead of calling Touchdown, on which five players block and four receivers run to the end zone, Richt called 70-X takeoff, which uses seven blockers and only two receivers running deep routes.

"The way that game was going, I don't think (quarterback David) Greene would be able to hold the ball long enough to run (Touchdown)," Richt said.

His improvised play call worked out perfectly as Greene pump-faked to Fred Gibson down the right sideline and floated a high pass to Michael Johnson in the back, left corner of the Tigers' end zone.

"Really, at first I think I underthrew Mike a little bit, but I knew I at least put it in the end zone where he could make a play on it," David Greene said.

Johnson rose up over Auburn cornerback Horace Willis and caught the ball for a touchdown with 1:25 left in the game, giving the Bulldogs a 24-21 win. The victory clinched Georgia's SEC Eastern Division title and gave the Bulldogs a spot in the SEC Championship Game.

"He makes those catches all the time," said sophomore wide receiver Bryan McClendon, who watched the play from the bench. "Mike's the fade guy."

Georgia built a special corner into its renovated football office to house that ball, the SEC Championship trophy and a picture of Johnson's catch.

Georgia hadn't practiced the play in the week leading up to that game and hadn't called it in a game for at least a month. Richt was concerned, he said, that Greene wouldn't even recognize the signal from the sideline.

"He remembered it and knew exactly what to do," Richt said.

 


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