There was one big bright spot in Minnesota’s 24-14 loss to Northwestern. With 88 receiving yards and a touchdown, Tyler Johnson found himself a spot in the Gopher record books. The junior became the just fifth Minnesota receiver ever with a 1,000-yard season. In addition, Johnson’s fourth-quarter touchdown ties him for third on the school’s single-season receiving touchdown list, with 10.
As a freshman in 2016, Johnson played sparingly. He caught 14 passes for 141 yards and one touchdown. His breakout season was a year ago when he led an offensively-challenged team with 35 catches, 677 yards, and seven touchdowns. And yet, his most impressive body of work has been this season. While the front seven of the defense has benefited from talented, experienced players like Carter Coughlin, Blake Cashman, and Thomas Barber, consider what has happened elsewhere:
-Both quarterbacks who have started games are freshmen
-Both senior running backs were injured, one in the spring and one in the first game, leaving the team to depend on two more freshmen
-The top two defensive backs have been injured since the first half of the season
It really is a wonder that this team still has a chance to become bowl-eligible. A large part of that has been Johnson’s dependability as a security blanket for the youngsters under center. I can’t wait to see what the Minneapolis native can do next season, surrounded by a more experienced offense.