Bouman Waits Like Johnson

Like Brad Johnson, Todd Bouman waited in the wings and learned the system as well as anybody. And like Johnson, Bouman performed when given the opportunity.

In the moments following the Vikings' impressive 42-24 hammering of the Tennessee Titans, the name of former Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson was thrown around liberally. Johnson spent years on the sidelines as veterans like Warren Moon, Sean Salisbury and Jim McMahon led the Vikings on the field.

Todd Bouman had much that same feeling. He had waited his turn behind Johnson, Randall Cunningham, Jeff George, Jay Fiedler, Bubby Brister and Daunte Culpepper for his chance to get a starting assignment. The whole time, he mastered the Vikings' offensive system. All he wanted was a chance to prove himself.

That came Sunday and he made the most of it, shattering several team records for first NFL starts — an achievement he said was due to patience.

"As a backup you have to wait for your opportunity, and when it comes you have to be ready because you never know when it's going to come," Bouman told VU. "Brad Johnson told me to be patient and things will work out in the end and just work hard no matter what the situation is and hope for the best."

When that opportunity presented itself, when it was apparent that Daunte Culpepper would not be available, Bouman, who credited the advice of Johnson, looked a lot like Johnson in his first outing.

"He played well and made some crucial throws," Cris Carter told VU. "He's at such an advantage, it's like Brad. Everyone talked about Brad when he was a backup. Can he play? I would say they are very similar because they understand the system, knowing where people are going to be. I thought he would do well."

From the outset, however, it didn't look as though it would be Bouman's moment to shine. The Titans took the opening kickoff and drove through the Vikings defense with relative ease. Starting from his own 26, Steve McNair faced an early three-and-out but scrambled 4 yards, avoiding a sack to move the chains. One play later, he found Frank Wycheck wide open for 23 yards after avoiding another sack. From there, it was Eddie George who did the damage, breaking off runs of 7, 3 and 7 yards to get the Titans in close and capping off the drive with a 13-yard burst up the middle to give Tennessee a 7-0 lead with 8:06 to play in the first quarter.

Bouman's first drive was an uneventful three-and-out, and the Titans took advantage again, driving for another score. McNair did most of the damage through the air, completing a 36-yard pass to Drew Bennett to the Vikings 39-yard line and hitting Bennett for 9 more to get the Titans in the red zone. The drive stalled there, but the Titans were close enough for Joe Nedney to hit a 37-yard field goal to take a 10-0 in the final minute of the first quarter.

With the Vikings' fans deathly silent — except when they booed lustily any time Randy Moss had a ball thrown his way, Bouman started moving the team in a positive direction — albeit slowly. He picked up the passing game with completions of 4 and 12 yards to Moss and a 21-yard pass that featured a completion to Carter and a lateral to Moss to get the ball to Titans 33. A pair of penalties would kill the drive, but the Vikings were making positive strides and Bouman's confidence was on the rise, which would come into play later.

Momentum began to swing when the Vikings defense made a big stand, forcing the Titans to a three-and-out. Bouman took over on his own 46 and made the team look like the Vikings of the previous three years. It took only six plays for the Vikings to strike paydirt. An 11-yard pass to Moss was followed by a 16-yard scamper by Michael Bennett. After a 17-yard sideline pass to Jake Reed, Bennett took a 4-yard run to the 6-yard line. From there, the Vikings flooded the right side with receivers and Bouman threw a perfect strike to Byron Chamberlain for a 6-yard TD, cutting the Titans' lead to 10-7 with 7:40 to play in the first half.

The Vikings defense again picked up the slack. Despite allowing a 23-yard run by George to get into Vikings territory, an 8-yard sack of McNair by Lance Johnstone snuffed out the drive and gave Bouman the ball back. He would again lead the Vikings to paydirt.

Starting from his own 25, Bouman threw a 9-yard slant to Chris Walsh, which was converted to a first down on a 2-yard run by Bennett. Two plays later, facing a third-and-8, Bouman lofted a floater to Moss that came down in between a pair of defenders for a 20-yard gain and a first down in Titans territory. Two plays later, this time facing a third-and-12, Bouman scrambled 16 yards for another first down. He then went back to the conventional route, completing an 8-yard pass to Chamberlain before completing a 20-yard TD pass to Jake Reed in the back of the end zone for a touchdown and a 14-10 lead the Vikings would take to halftime.

With momentum on the Vikings' side, the hammer was put down to start the second half. Nate Jacquet took the opening kickoff back 43 yards and the Vikings offense came out in quick-strike mode. Following a 3-yard run by Bennett, Bouman completed passes of 7 yards to Chamberlain and 16 yards to Moss. With the Titans looking pass, the Vikes crossed them up with a draw to Bennett, who broke the play for a 31-yard TD run. After falling behind 10-0 early, the Vikings had a 21-10 lead with 12:36 to go in the third quarter.

Within a couple of minutes, the rout was on.

With Tennessee trying to mount a drive to get the team back in the game, George was stripped of the ball on a run up the middle by Lemanski Hall, who recovered on the Titans 38. The Vikings wasted no time in making the Titans pay for the mistake. Flushed out of the pocket, Bouman appeared ready to scramble but spotted a blown coverage that left Doug Chapman uncovered. Bouman flipped a short pass to Chapman, who turned around to find clear sailing to the end zone. He raced untouched for a 38-yard touchdown and, with 10:29 to play in the third, the Vikes now led 28-10.

With the lead in hand, the Vikings defense pinned its ears back and attacked McNair, sacking him on consecutive plays — sacks by Kailee Wong and Fred Robbins — to end their next drive before it started. While the Vikings finally had to punt for the first time in five drives, the game was heading to the fourth quarter with the Vikings firmly in control.

The Titans knew they were facing their last gasp and came through with a big drive to keep their faint hopes alive. McNair came out with passes of 14 yards to Derrick Mason and 9 yards to Erron Kinney to get the Titans moving. After a 9-yard run by George, McNair completed a 21-yard strike to Kevin Dyson to the Vikings 27. A pair of George runs moved the chains again and it was McNair and Dyson connecting again to close out the drive with a 15-yard scoring pass in the back of the end zone. The Titans felt their comeback was possible but still trailed 28-17 with 14:07 to play.

With Tennessee trying to mount a comeback to save their season, Bouman and the Vikings put them away — facing only one third-down play on the drive. It came on the first series, as Bouman converted a third-and-1 with a 4-yard sneak. After that, yards came in chunks. Bennett took a run 8 yards, Carter pulled in a 15-yard pass on the sideline, and Bennett and Chapman bulled up the middle for runs of 7 and 6 yards, respectively. The team pulled out some razzle-dazzle on the next play, as Bouman completed a pass over the middle to Carter and, as defenders converged, he flipped a long lateral to Chamberlain, who rumbled another 18 yards to the Titans 10-yard line. From there, Bennett took a sweep over left tackle for a 10-yard TD and the Vikings now led 35-17 with 7:53 to play.

With the game in hand, the teams exchanged turnovers, as McNair fumbled a ball away and Bouman was picked off in the end zone. With the Vikings in a prevent defense, the Titans were able to pick up yards in small pieces, driving 80 yards in 12 plays, eating up more than three minutes off the clock before scoring on a 9-yard pass to Frank Wycheck to cut the lead to 35-24 and again leave a sliver of hope for Tennessee.

That would end quickly.

After a failed on-side kick, Bouman threw a 1-yard pass to Moss, who found a seam and was gone — racing 73 yards into the open field for a touchdown and a 42-24 lead. The Titans shut down from there, and the Vikings came away with a big win that may be part of their new role — playoff spoiler for other teams.

While Bouman was able to enjoy his successful day, it may be a cameo appearance. Although Vikings coach Green was pleased with Bouman's performance, he refused to let any QB controversy come out of the win.

"We are going to look to see how Daunte is," Green told VU. "He made some progress this week. He felt good — better than last week. Right now, we haven't given it any thought (about who starts next week). But Daunte Culpepper is our starting quarterback."

Still, it has to be comforting for Green to know he has Bouman if he needs him. VU

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