For Jah’Shawn Johnson, the best place to play football is at home, at Jones AT&T Stadium. This week’s venue might be the next best thing.
It’s Baylor week for Texas Tech, and for nearly a decade that’s meant playing where the Dallas Cowboys play, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The trip evokes a little more meaning for Johnson than for most of his Texas Tech teammates, inasmuch as his father, safety and special teams whiz Keith Davis, played for the Cowboys from 2002-08.
Davis was gone from the league before AT&T Stadium opened, but still …
“I’ve been a Cowboys fan my whole life,” Johnson, the Texas Tech safety, said Tuesday. “Watched my dad play in the old (Texas) stadium. I was dreaming of playing in there. I kind of played a flag football game there at halftime — I wouldn’t call it a game, but just getting out there and getting some experience.”
Now it’s about more than just fun. Johnson’s the leading tackler for the Red Raiders this year and had a bang-up game last year when Tech beat Baylor 54-35. He got credit for 10 tackles and was in on three turnovers. He caused one fumble, picked up another at the Tech 1-yard line and intercepted a pass on a play from the Tech 32.
That game was the 2016 regular-season finale, and then Johnson busied himself with getting better for this season.
“I’ve definitely progressed in my man coverage,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve been targeted as much this year as I have been in the past. I credit that to our coaching staff for getting us out there and doing all the drills we do in man coverage.
“That was one of the things I wanted to focus on the most, and limit my missed tackles. I’m pretty sure I’m in the single digits in that, which is a good thing with the way we play defense and the opportunities that I have to tackle.”
Johnson came back and played the third and fourth quarter of a 42-35 loss last week to Kansas State, serving a penalty in the first two quarters for his targeting ejection the week before at Oklahoma.
That meant he had an unusual vantage point for the first half.
“I was standing in front of the TV like I was in the game, honestly,” he said. “I was just amped up and ready to go. … I was ready to go and my teammates were ready to have me back out there, and coaches as well.”
In the last two weeks, the Red Raiders have had three players flagged for targeting. Defensive tackle Broderick Washington’s targeting and would-be ejection was overturned on review. But defensive end Kolin Hill sat out the second half of the Kansas State game after being ejected for targeting in the second quarter.
Johnson was ejected at OU for a high hit on CeeDee Lamb as the Sooners receiver was catching a touchdown pass. Though Johnson was animated as he left the field, he said he was exhorting his teammates, not angry at officials.
“I was OK with the call,” he said. “I knew what I did, and I’ve just got to go a little lower.”
Johnson’s ejection was the second of his career. Though Hill’s targeting foul made it back-to-back weeks for the Red Raiders, Johnson said it’s not been a subject of discussion among Tech players or coaches.
“Not at all,” he said. “We can’t apologize for the way we compete. We won’t think about it when we’re out there competing. We’re just playing fast and whatever happens, happens. If they decide to rule it targeting, then we have to live with it.
“You can’t think about that on the field. That will have you playing a step slower, which you can’t do in this league, because they’ll run by you or make you miss.”
Who: Texas Tech vs. Baylor
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington
Records: Texas Tech 4-5, 1-5 in the Big 12; Baylor 1-8, 1-5
Rankings: Both teams unranked.
TV: Fox Sports Net
Last game: Kansas State 42, Texas Tech 35 (OT); Baylor 38, Kansas 9
Last meeting: Texas Tech 54, Baylor 35 last year in Arlington
Line: Tech by 7 1/2
Fast fact: Tech ranks tied for 15th in the FBS in turnover margin (18 gained, 11 lost), and Baylor ranks tied for 109th (10 gained, 16 lost)
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