Johnson Saves Best For Last

The Hurricanes had not even played a down and already Andre Johnson was being questioned on whether or not the receivers were good enough to be a valuable part of the team. But the quiet University of Miami sophomore never lose his cool under the South Florida heat back in August and instead he just sat back and listened to the critics.

"No question in my mind, before the season started the receivers were being overlooked," said Johnson. "I felt we had something to prove all season and the only way to take care of that was to bring my ‘A' game into the Rose Bowl." And some.

Johnson let the entire country know the Hurricanes are currently in good hands with a school-bowl record 199 yards on seven catches and two touchdowns to share Most Valuable Player honors of the Rose Bowl with quarterback Ken Dorsey and help guide UM to their fifth national title in school history. Johnson broke the previous mark held by Santana Moss (141 yards, 1998 Bowl).

"Andre Johnson is a hell of a player. He was huge and that's what great players usually do when the lights go on," said Dorsey, who broke George Mira's 40-year-old bowl record Hurricanes bowl record with 362 passing yards, on 22-of-35 and three touchdown passes.

Johnson made sure to include both Nebraska defensive backs DeJuan Groce and Keyou Craver in his coming out party in Pasadena. And it didn't take the 6-3, 220-pounder long to set the pace for the Hurricanes 37-14 victory over the Cornhuskers.

Almost from the outset, Johnson made Nebraska pay for leaving their corners in one-on-one situations against him. With less than seven minutes remaining in the first quarter, Johnson was on the receiving end of a Dorsey 49-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline, giving the Hurricanes 7-0 lead.

On the play, Johnson, perhaps the most physical and speedy receiver ever at Miami, sent the 6-1, 190-pound Craver to the ground with a swipe at the line of scrimmage and sped down the field all alone before Dorsey delivered the pass. Johnson also had a 34-yard reception during the 5-play, 86-yard drive that set up the Hurricanes with a first and 10 at the Nebraska 39.

The former Miami High standout wasn't done harassing the Big Red defenders.

With the Hurricanes up 21-0 in the second quarter, Johnson went pass Groce this time to haul in a 45-yard pass and put the Hurricanes in position for their fourth touchdown of the night. On the next play, Jeremy Shockey caught an eight-yard scoring pass to put UM in front 27-0.

Then, it was Craver's turn to get lit up again as Johnson caught a 24-yard pass on a third down situation as the Hurricanes moved inside Huskers territory. Johnson capped the drive with an eight-yard touchdown pass, his second of the game. Before the conclusion of the first half, Johnson had already accumulated fives catches for 160 yards.

"He is big and really strong," said Craver. "With a doubt, he is the most physical I had to go up against this year."

Johnson agreed.

"I was thinking ‘this is just easy," said Johnson. "They played off me and it looked like they were laid back or something."

Johnson was the Hurricanes second-leading receiver this year with 37 receptions for 682 yards and 10 touchdowns after having to sit behind the likes of Santana Moss, Reggie Wayne and Andre King during the 2000 season. He was one of 11 players in the 1999 recruiting class to redshirt.

But forget being strapped behind two NFL first-round picks and a balanced attack that spreads the ball around.

On arrival at Coral Gables three years ago, the Hurricanes coaching staff salivated over the local kid's combination of physical tools and speed. Even throwing around the name of UM receiving great Michael Irvin when comparing Johnson to another player.

Johnson is quiet by nature and doesn't say much on or off the field, which has sparked questions about his demeanor between the lines. Although, talk of possibly finishing his UM career as the best receiver in school history is alive and well. And unlike t several of his teammates, like Phillip Buchanon, Jeremy Shockey and Clinton Portis, the Hurricanes receiver is not going anywhere.

"I'm going to push myself even more next year," Johnson said. "There are still so many things that I have to learn to be the type of player I hope of becoming."

"Andre Johnson is a special talent and a game-breaker in every way," said University of Miami head coach Larry Coker. "With his physical tools there isn't much that this young man can't get done on a football field."

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