Johnson plays large in Columbus

Sarah Mitchell

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State cornerback Nate Clements has quick feet — he runs a 4.3 40-yard dash.
But Clements’ feet aren’t always the fastest part of his body.
Last week, the junior’s mouth beat his feet to the finish line. Coming off a win at Wisconsin — a game which featured two of the better cornerbacks in the country between Clements and the Badgers’ Jamar Fletcher — Clements all but declared himself the best cornerback in the country.
After the game Clements told the Columbus Dispatch, “Jamar Fletcher is good, but they were hyping him up, and I felt I was better than him.
This week Clements might try sticking his foot in his mouth.
While his team was being upset 29-17 by Minnesota on Saturday, Clements was being burned play after play by Gophers wide receiver Ron Johnson.
By game’s end, Johnson hauled in eight passes — seven on third down conversions including a 55-yard reception on third and seven — for 163 yards and one touchdown. He also succeeded in silencing Clements.
Clements did not talk after the game. A triumphant Johnson, on the other hand, had plenty to say.
“We ran some good routes on him,” Johnson said. “He took the bait and, you know, we just abused him.”
“He’s a good corner. We just battled them and came up with the win.”
Minnesota’s offense punished Clements and the Buckeyes when it went with a four-receiver set. The Gophers spread Ohio State’s defense thin, leaving Clements alone to cover Johnson.
In what might have been a gutsy move, Gophers quarterback Travis Cole threw Johnson’s way 14 times.
After the game, Buckeyes assistant coach Fred Pagac said he had never seen a team go against Clements one-on-one that much. Still, Pagac said Clements and the rest of the Buckeyes should have defended the pass better.
“We face those formations all the time,” Pagac said. “Every team we’ve played used those formations.”
On the other side of the field, Gophers coach Glen Mason said working Clements was not part of the pre-game plan.
“Believe me, we didn’t say, ‘Hey, let’s put No. 3 (Johnson) against 20 (Clements),'” Mason said. “We didn’t say that.”
But the Cole-to-Johnson connection was so successful in the first quarter, it only seemed right to pick on Clements for the rest of the game.
In the opening quarter alone, Johnson had five receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown.
With the touchdown catch — a three-yard pass from Cole late in the second quarter — Johnson set a school record for receiving touchdowns with 18. The record was previously held by Tutu Atwell (1994-97).
“When I caught the touchdown, I had no idea about that until you just said it now,” said Johnson after the game.
In the end, Johnson has a lot to talk about this week. He is the owner of a school record. His team upset the nation’s then-sixth ranked team.
Clements, on the other hand, has been left tongue-tied.

Sarah Mitchell covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]