Johnson Anxious to Get Back to the Coliseum

Several things are motivating Jeremiah Johnson this week as his Oregon Ducks prepare to travel to Los Angeles and play the USC Trojans on Saturday, with kickoff scheduled for 5 p.m. For one thing, Johnson is a LA native and has never had a chance to run the ball against the team that wanted him as a defensive back.

The 4-1 Ducks face the 2-1 Trojans in a game that could re-establish either team's hopes for a BCS championship game. College football's former No. 1 team lost to Oregon State last week 27-21 and slipped to 9th in both the AP and the USA Today polls. Meanwhile, the Ducks are coming off a dismantling of Washington State at Pullman last Saturday, 63-14. The Trojans hold a 36-16-2 all-time advantage in the series, however the two teams are even with six wins each in the last 12 meetings.

Last year behind the leadership of Dennis Dixon and running of Jonathan Stewart, Oregon prevailed 24-17. Dixon was 16-for-25 and rushed for 76 yards on 17 carries and ran across the goal line once for a touchdown. Stewart had 103 yards on 25 carries and two touchdowns but Johnson was injured and couldn't play. In '06 Johnson played on special teams, but he didn't have a rush because of a coach's decision. In '05 the Ducks were hoping to keep Johnson a redshirt, so he did not play. Later in the season the redshirt came off against Stanford, too late for the USC game. This year, Johnson wants to make amends for the past.

"I have a lot of anger in my heart because I've never played in the Coliseum and that's where I come from," said a determined Johnson. "I plan on doing big things on that field."

If that sounds like strong talk, it is and USC Head Coach Pete Carroll for one is paying attention to what Johnson and his running mates at Oregon are doing.

"Oregon coming in, coming off a huge win and some big games," observed Carroll of the Ducks. "Throwing up 300 plus yards of rushing after following up when we did play the run very well really makes it hard on us."

So far this season Oregon is averaging a whopping 308.6 yards per game rushing and 531.6 yards overall. The Ducks are holding opponents to 330.2 yards. Johnson is averaging 88 yards a contest and has scored six touchdowns. His teammate LeGarrette Blount has a 92.6-yard per game average and has eight touchdowns. Last week against WSU both backs scored three touchdowns each.

A Los Angeles native, Johnson went to high school at Dorsey, and there are some things he'd like to show the folks back home. The Coliseum is a place that he holds special, it is where his high school team played for a Divisional Championship but Johnson and Dorsey came up short losing to Birmingham. That is weighing on the Duck senior's mind.

"I got some stuff in my heart, we're playing in the Coliseum," emphasized Johnson. "That's where we lost our state championship, so I want to do a lot of things there."

Another motivational factor for Johnson is that USC is well known for taking all the top talent in the LA area and if you are a player that knew you could do the same things as those players then you'd like a chance to prove that. Johnson feels that he and his teammates can do just that and "as a team we can go out and strike a mighty blow."

While Johnson was recruited by USC as a cornerback, it wasn't something he wanted to do.

"They (USC) wanted me to play corner and I didn't want to do that so I pretty much took them off my list," Johnson said of his recruitment.

The final factor for Johnson is that a win over USC will spring Oregon right back into the picture for a possible BCS Championship game.

Johnson picked the Ducks as his destination and Duck fans need no more proof of what he can do. They'll be 100 percent behind him as he and the Ducks take the field on Saturday afternoon in what could a pivotal game in the 2008 season.




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