Johnson's performance quiets critics

By Ryan Schneider

Arizona Daily Wildcat

LOS ANGELES An enlarged newspaper article dangled conspicuously at the entrance to the Southern Cal locker room Saturday afternoon. The bold headline read in big, black letters, "No taming this Wildcat," and the story glorified the seemingly omnipotent Arizona defense.

Apparently, USC quarterback Rob Johnson didn't read the propoganda piece. That may have been the only thing he missed. Johnson managed to outfox Arizona's Desert Swarm by completing 25 of 35 passes for 390 yards and three touchdowns in the Trojans' 45-28 win at the Coliseum.

"I think Rob Johnson is one of the best players I've ever seen," boasted Coach John Robinson, who has seen his share of talented Trojans in his nine-year tenure at USC. "I thought he was absolutely marvelous."

Indeed, the only thing a frustrated UA secondary could do was marvel as Johnson strung together 15 straight completions and came within two yards of a school record for most passing yardage in a game before spraining his right ankle midway through the fourth quarter. The injury is not serious and will not sideline Johnson against arch-rival UCLA this week.

"He didn't just go to one

guy, he got all of us," said Arizona defensive back Spencer Wray, who had the chore of covering his cousin, Southern Cal receiver Keyshawn Johnson (five receptions, 109 yards). "He read the defense pretty good and he hit whoever was open. It's that simple."

It hasn't been that simple for Johnson this season, however. After being labeled a Heisman Trophy hopeful, Johnson has battled inconsistency and injury. The senior missed two Pacific 10 Conference contests and has had to deal with calls for a quarterback change with the rise of promising backup Brad Otton.

But just as Johnson kept his cool in evading the UA rush, so too did he take the boos and complaints in stride.

"That's expected when I don't put up the good numbers that I would have liked," said Johnson, who combined with Otton to throw for 434 yards against Arizona, a new Southern Cal record. "I knew that if I don't have these type of games every game, then I'm going to be the goat and I understood that going into the season.

"If you start getting down on yourself, you might as well hang it up. You're done."

Adjusting and coping with these problems has taught Johnson to keep a low profile by sharing success with his team, family and friends, he said. This philosophy has paid off because lately, there have been plenty of accolades to go around as USC rides a five-game win streak and runs for the Rose Bowl.

Not everyone has chosen to keep quiet, Johnson said. Rumors were circulating on Southern Cal's campus that the Wildcats were talking up a storm during the week preceding this long-anticipated showdown.

"We heard from a couple of our guys in the NFL that they were talking some serious trash," Johnson said. "Teams that talk usually don't end up playing as well. We don't talk too much, we just go out and play."

After Saturday's performance, there isn't much left for Johnson to say or read.

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