Johnny Football jogs out of the tunnel with his team. Running mid pack every eye in Oxford hurries to find him and track his path the to the bench. There is a game tonight, but the presence and performance of the glorious number 2 will define this night more than the final score. Before kick-off, television cameras find him near the bench with his back to the field seemingly in prayer, or perhaps in deep thought finding that place where the genius of Johnny Football lives.
On the first play from scrimmage, Johnny runs a draw, jukes his would-be spy, splits two converging defenders and carries another three Rebels on his back for five yards at the end of a seventeen yard run. It is a play best measured in the hours and efforts Ole Miss spent during the week to prevent it’s ocurrence, and it’s immediate failure to do so.
After two quick passes and another draw, Johnny rolls right, and reveals the subtlety of his genius. His eyes scan downfield as he sprints right to a pocket of space, slows to set his feet before seeing nothing and racing to the sticks to save a loss on the play. His awareness of time and space distinguishes him.
One play later, he is wrapped up by a defender for a sure sack, but wriggles his left arm free with the ball and throws a lame duck pass to the sideline. Penalty. Intentional grounding. Bad decision for sure, but confirmation of his unwillingness to let a play die and his unmatched improvisational instincts.
On a subsequent play, Johnny drops back and takes off breaking the ankles of his would-be spy, darting forward then horizontally for a gain of nine. His run resemble escapes more than rushing attempts.
Later in the quarter, Johnny drops back, buys time and space before sprinting to his left amd throwing back across his body and incomplete. On the release, Johnny falls to the ground clutching his left knee. He remains on the ground for a few minutes before walking gingerly to the bench. Even in a moment of injury, he remains aware and in full control of his body. In a full spring and having released a pass, he keeps his left leg off the ground and falls without landing on it again. Spontaneous, but brilliant.
The possession ends with a missed field goal, and Johnny, with a far away look in his eyes as trainers tend to his knee. The potential disappointmemt if cannot return to the game is depressing, and i would be inclined to watch a different game. Moments later, he is up and cutting on the sideline.
Perhaps on a balky knee, Johnny stands in the pocket and fires three straight completions. The Aggies benefit from a targeting penalty and run in from fifteen yards out on the next play. The drive is inconclusive of Johnny’s ability to play as himself.
Bound to the pocket again, Johnny converts a third and five with a screen pass as speculation increases on the extent of his injury. On third and fourteen, he can’t find a receiver and bursts up the middle of the field for twenty yards. A few plays later he spins away from the pass rush and sprints left to pick up first down as an Ole Miss defender pulls a hamstring in pursuit. He is fine, or has willed himself to be so. Game on.
With his team down 7 in the fourth quarter, Johnny Football converts a third and 14 and a fourth and 7 with his feet before scoring the game tying touchdown and leading his team downfield to a field goal to win 41-38.
Over the sixty minutes he passed or ran 58 times for 470 yards and two touchdowns. An extraordinary stat line that doesn’t come close to the joy of watching him play after play. No player in college football produces brilliance and efficient numbers at the rate and it is a joke to consider anyone else for the Heisman Trophy.