Sophomore quarterback Jared Johnson was an offensive beast at Bowers Stadium on Saturday when Sam Houston State pulled the upset on former No. 4 McNeese State 38-22.
Johnson exploded on offense, breaking the SHSU all-time record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single game, snapping a record set in 1990, silencing Bearkat fans wanting a change a quarterback.
“I feel like the opportunity came for me to be able to use my athleticism,” Johnson said. “[I was] just playing natural football.”
Going into Saturday’s game, some Bearkat fans questioned Johnson’s play at quarterback and called for head coach K.C. Keeler to put in another quarterback, such as sophomore Don King III or redshirt freshman John Roderique. But Johnson showed up against the Cowboys in record fashion.
“Great teams don’t worry about what just happened in the past,” Keeler said. “They worry about what’s up next. We focus on going 1-0 every day”
In 1990, SHSU quarterback Ashley Van Meter rushed 16 times for 163 yards in a 26-14 win over North Texas. This game would give Van Meter the record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single game, and the record stood tall for 20-plus seasons.
Yet Johnson would shatter the record by rushing 11 times for 190 yards, including two long rushing touchdowns of 73 yards and 67 yards. His performance earned him Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Week as well as being named FCS National Co-Offensive Player of the Week by The Sports Network.
Johnson would not control the game with just his feet. He threw 15-29 for 192 yards and two touchdowns, one to redshirt freshman wide receiver Yedidiah Louis and the other to junior wide receiver LaDarius Brown. This was both Louis and Brown’s first touchdowns of the season, even with Louis averaging 56.2 receiving yards a game and Brown averaging 41.0 receiving yards a game. Louis would lead all Bearkat receivers against McNeese with five catches for 65 yards, and Brown would follow with four catches and 63 yards.
Louis did not just use his hands for catching but provided a huge block on a McNeese defender for Johnson’s 67-yard touchdown.
Johnson now leads all Bearkats with not only passing yards but rushing yards as well. He has 375 rushing yards through six games with four touchdowns, while averaging 62.5 yards a game. Johnson also has more carries than any of the running backs on the Bearkats’ roster.
The Bearkats also saw tremendous play on the other side of the ball. Redshirt freshman defensive end P.J. Hall led the Bearkat defense with 11 total tackles, including three for a total loss of 12 yards.
This was Hall’s first game with the ability to fully use both his hands. Hall played the first five games with one hand in a cast, forcing him to be put on the outside, but now he can be moved around the line. Last week Hall was named to the 20-player “watch list” for the Jerry Rice Award, which is given to the most outstanding FCS freshman.
Senior safety Michael Wade finished the game with nine tackles and junior safety Eric Agbaroji finished with seven tackles. The Bearkat defense also forced McNeese to punt nine times in the game and allowed only two trips in the red-zone.
“As men we decided to fight through this thing,” Keeler said. “I think we are relevant again.”
Johnson will next lead his 2-0 Southland Conference squad into Natchitoches, La. against Northwestern State. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. on Saturday.