Marcus Johnson coming through on third down for Longhorns

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Marcus Johnson has caught 10 passes this year. Nothing special. That’s something hundreds of FBS players have done this season. Dozens of Big 12 players have already accomplished the feat.

But what makes Johnson’s 10 catches special is the fact that seven of them have come on third down. On those seven plays where Johnson has made a third-down grab, Texas has needed an average of more than 10 yards for a first down. Yet Johnson has managed to move the chains with six of those seven third-down catches.

All three of Johnson’s catches so far during Texas’ game against TCU have come on third downs – all for first downs.

With Texas already holding a 10-0 lead in the second quarter, Johnson hauled in a 12-yard pass on 3rd-and-8. Case McCoy fired incomplete to Johnathan Gray on the next play and Daje Johnson ran for no gain on the following play.

That set up another magical third-down moment for Johnson, who broke free for a 65-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-10 to give Texas a 17-7 lead.

A 3-hour, 6-minute lightning delay began shortly after that long touchdown catch by Johnson but that didn’t slow him down. On Texas’ first second-half possession, McCoy hit a streaking Johnson for 43 yards on 3rd-and-9. McCoy took another shot downfield in Johnson’s direction and drew a pass interference call on TCU’s Elisha Olabode.

Malcolm Brown capped off that drive with his second three-yard touchdown run of the night, giving the Longhorns a 27-7 advantage early in the third quarter. 

Johnson’s biggest catch of the year, however, likely came in Texas’ last game – a 36-20 drubbing of Oklahoma. The sophomore from League Springs made only reception in that game but made it count.

A two-touchdown underdog, Texas took a 10-3 lead into the second quarter. On 3rd-and-11 from his won 41-yard line, McCoy unleashed a pass downfield off his back foot. It fell right in Johnson’s breadbasket for a 59-yard touchdown. That play broke the game open, giving the Longhorns a 17-7 lead and, more importantly, complete command of a game no one thought they would win.

To recap – Johnson has made 10 catches this year. Seven have come on third down for 222 yards (31.7 yards per catch) and two touchdowns – both game-changers. The other three catches went for a mere 35 yards, none of them game-changers.

Next time you see McCoy drop back on 3rd-and-long, keep an eye on Johnson. He’s done an excellent job this year of finding a soft spot in the defense and making plays when the Longhorns need him the most.