Justin Johnson Filling In

Justin Johnson Filling In

Justin Johnson replaced injured receiver Josh Harper at San Jose State. He may need to again in Saturday's Mountain West Conference Championship Game. Harper is questionable and Johnson is prepared to play a big role.

Very rarely were Adams, Harper and Burse not all on the field for the Bulldogs this season. The trio has accounted for 68% of the Bulldogs' receptions and 39 of Derek Carr's 45 touchdown passes. Harper made another highlight touchdown grab in San Jose, but also suffered an injury that cost him the remainder of the game.

Harper out, in comes Justin Johnson - a two-star recruit from St. John Bosco High School, Tim DeRuyter's alma mater. The sophomore receiver was DeRuyter's first Fresno State commit after closely considering a scholarship offer from Duke.

He had five career catches prior to first entering last Friday's game at San Jose State, but played nearly every snap in place of Josh Harper.

"At first, it was different, never got a chance to be in a full game from start to finish," Johnson said. "Once I got on the field I trusted my training and just relied on that to take me throughout the game. Didn't do anything out of the ordinary, just did what I was supposed to do and got me a couple catches."

"It was a little nerve racking at first, but once I got on the field and got my first couple hits and got a catch, I was fine."

Johnson finished with four receptions for 36 yards. His first catch of the game was his first career touchdown. Carr hit him behind the line of scrimmage and Johnson ran in five yards for his first score.

"It was awesome," Johnson said. "I've got to thank DC, the whole offense. Everybody did their job and I got my catch. At the end of the day, it takes a whole group to get the job done. It takes all 11 to get that one catch to me."

Johnson was thrown into action at San Jose State, but this week he gets a chance to take first team reps and fully prepare for what is ahead of him on Saturday. Wide receiver Josh Harper is questionable for Saturday's game and Johnson would continue to play the position if Harper cannot play. Johnson isn't changing up his routine too much this week, however.

"Just focusing a little more honestly," Johnson said. "I had to step up big time in the San Jose State game and grew up little bit honestly. I've never had that experience at the college level, but now that I do I don't want to do any different type of preparation - then I'm thinking too much out on the field or getting too hard on myself. It's just go out there and trust my training."

Johnson will get his shot to make a big contribution to Fresno State's conference championship efforts. His first start could come on the biggest stage he's ever experienced.

"It's awesome," Johnson said. "I've never played in a game at this type of championship level at all. It's different but I'm going to go out there and treat it like any other game throughout the season. Just do my job and hopefully come out with the win."

Johnson will have an opportunity to continue playing a big role for the Bulldogs next year. A good showing on Saturday would help his cause.

"It's a good thing for him to be able to come in this late in the season," Davante Adams said. "But also to have the opportunity to show what he can do because he's going to be out there a lot next year and getting in the rotation more."

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