RB Drake Johnson gives Michigan crowd reason to cheer


The feel-good moments happening at Michigan Stadium this season have been few and far between.

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Surprisingly, the 103.000 fans who braved the gusty winds and sub-40 degree temperatures were treated to more than a handful of highlights during Michigan’s 34-10  win over Indiana Saturday (Nov. 1).

Wolverine TE Keith Heitzman caught his first touchdown pass and WR Bo Dever caught the first pass of his career.

WR Amara Darboh caught a career high nine passes for 107 yards and a touchdown, and Devin Funchess was his usual workmanlike self, catching seven passes for 47 yards.

Gardner solid

QB Devin Gardner had a solid afternoon, hitting 22 of 29 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns.

Nov 1, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines tight end Keith Heitzman (92) scores a touchdown in the first quarter against the Indiana Hoosiers at Michigan Stadium. Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

But the Wolverine everyone is tweeting about is seldom-used running back Drake Johnson.

The 6-0, 211 lb. redshirt sophomore put on quite a show Saturday, rushing for 122 yards on 16 carries, while scoring on runs of  10 and 16 yards.

“Obviously we got some good performances from some guys who haven’t played as much,” head coach Brady Hoke said during the post-game news conference. I’m talking about (running back) Drake (Johnson) as much as anybody.

Local star

“He’s gotten a lot of second reps now since Derrick (Green) went out. We always thought he was talented, and he took advantage. He saw an opportunity and did a heck of a job.”

Johnson might not have been known nationally like Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith, but anyone familiar with local high school football is well aware of his ability.

“He’s more of a slasher than the others,” Hoke added.  “The one thing he does have is a very good burst when you look at the gears. He’s got the ability to take it the distance also.”

As a senior running back (2011) at Ann Arbor Pioneer (that’s right, where many of you park), Johnson ran for 2,805 yards , 37 touchdowns and was also an All-American hurdler.

Impressive against state champs

He also made quite an impression in a 2010 meeting with eventual state champion Detroit Cass Tech (2011-12).

All he did was score on a 79-yard punt return, a 41-yard interception return, a 19-yard run, and a pair of receptions (18, 26). He also threw a seven-yard pass in the 44-42 loss to the Technicians.

Johnson was named to the 2011 Associated Press All-State team and Detroit Free Press Dream Team.

Sidelined by ACL tear

Also named to The Detroit News Blue Chip list, Johnson was redshirted  in 2012, and came to camp in 2013 ready to challenge Fitz Toussaint, Green and Smith for playing time.

But his career was put on hold after suffering a torn ACL in the 2013 opener against Central Michigan. He missed the entire 2013 season, but is rapidly making up for lost time.

With Smith questionable because of a sore ankle, Johnson or Justice Hayes will be the feature back next Saturday.

The win over Indiana (3-5, 0-5)  gives Michigan a 4-5 overall record including a 2-3 mark in the Big Ten. To become bowl eligible and possibly save Hokes job, the Wolverines must win two of their final three games (at Northwestern [Nov. 8], home against Maryland [Nov. 22] and at Ohio State [Nov. 29]).

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