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Record-Breaking Career Little Consolation for Johnson : Trojans: The USC quarterback comes up very short (0-5-1) in big games against UCLA, Irish.

November 27, 1994|JIM HODGES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Afterward, save for what is offered in the bowl season, Rob Johnson walked off the Coliseum field with every passing record that means anything at USC.

Passes thrown, completions, touchdowns . . . . everything, including most mentions in the Trojan record book.

He also left with a 0-5-1 record as a starter in games that matter at USC: 0-3 against UCLA, 0-2-1 against Notre Dame.

Put the records and the record on a scale. They don't balance. Ask the people who booed his presentation by Coach John Robinson to the traditional season-ending gathering of the student body. They were quickly overwhelmed by cheering supporters.

"I've got 2 minutes 47 seconds," said Robinson, perhaps overtiming the cheers, but nobody had pulled a watch to dispute him.

And the boos? "The rest of them don't count."

Johnson accepted it as just another day as a Trojan.

"I was surprised they cheered at all," he said. "I didn't have a very good second half."

His first half wasn't all that bad.

Johnson worked a soft spot in the Notre Dame defense early, hitting Terry Barham, Tyler Cashman and Keyshawn Johnson with passes over the middle, in front of defensive backs determined to prevent big plays.

He threw his 55th touchdown pass--breaking Rodney Peete's mark--on a five-yard pass to Johnny McWilliams in the second quarter to to give USC a 7-3 lead.

At halftime, he was 13 of 18 for 157 yards and had been sacked but once. He played the game in spurts, completing six passes in a row, missing six in a row, then completing six more in a row. He finished 15 of 29 for 187 yards and a touchdown. He also threw an interception and was willing to accept that a 17-17 tie against Notre Dame might make you want a play or two back.

"Which play do you think?" he said.

Certainly it was the interception in the third quarter with USC driving, second down 14 yards to go on the Notre Dame 16.

As the play unfolded, he was staring at Keyshawn Johnson, whose company was being passed from Ivory Covington to Brian Magee in the zone defense. Keyshawn was never open and, as he is wont to do, Rob Johnson held the ball too long.

"I tried to throw it away and I was hit as I threw," he said.

Having divested himself of Keyshawn Johnson, Covington was hard upon USC's Leonard Green, a back who had gone upfield to help out in the pass pattern.

Covington intercepted at his nine, and Notre Dame's lead was upheld at 17-10.

It didn't last.

Neither did Johnson's streak against Notre Dame. He's still winless, but. . . .

"I guess it's better to tie than to lose, but as seniors we didn't want to go out with a tie," he said, tentatively.

So, what about the tie? "It (stinks)," he admitted.

Teammate Tony Boselli was more forthcoming.

"It feels empty," he said. "This is awful. It's just empty."

Maybe, but there was a positive.

"We didn't play the best we can play, but we played better than we did last week," Johnson said. Last week was a 31-19 loss to UCLA, finishing Johnson's career against the Bruins.

Against the Irish, there was a desire to beat somebody--anybody--among USC's rivals.

The chance was there in the fourth quarter, with 2:22 to play and the ball at the USC 48. A run for Shawn Walters gained two yards, but then Johnson was sacked by Jeremy Sample. On third and 14, Johnson faded back and tripped over Walters, losing four yards and prompting a John Stonehouse punt.

It was an ignominious ending to a regular-season career at USC.

It also ended a day that began with teammates watching Florida play Florida State, perhaps even scouting a potential Sugar Bowl opponent in the Gators.

"When that game ended in a tie, we said that it would be great to get an extra period, like in the pros, to decide it," Johnson said.

Little did he know how much he could have used it only hours later.

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