In the hours leading up to Oregon’s matchup against Cal, the rain and the cloud cover above Autzen stadium ebbed and flowed. But by kickoff time, the sky was relatively clear.
The California Golden Bears kicked off to the Oregon Ducks, and the Oregon offense trotted onto the field to start their drive from the 25. On the first play, Bo Nix dropped back to pass and threw the ball down the field for what would become his second interception of the year. The ball was picked after bouncing through WR Tez Johnson’s hands on what should’ve been after a routine catch.
After a start like that, no one would’ve expected Johnson to go on to have the day he did.
The junior receiver transferred to Oregon last offseason after three years at Troy, where he racked up 1809 receiving yards and 9 total TDs. Johnson is Bo Nix’s adopted brother and the two were high school teammates. Johnson grew up idolizing Oregon football and on Saturday, he enshrined himself in the history of Oregon football with his performance, finishing with 12 catches for 180 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Once the Ducks got the ball back after the opening interception, Bucky Irving scored on a swing pass, only for the play to be brought back due to a penalty. And after another penalty on the next play, Oregon was pushed back to the California 48-yard line for a 2nd and 37. Bo Nix dropped back and looked for Tez once again. This time, Johnson was surehanded, and he hauled in the pass as he dusted the Bears’ safety up the middle of the field.
When asked how Johnson was able to bounce back so well after a tough start, his brother Bo had this to say.
“When his number was called he answered,” Nix said. “You can look at the whole entire game, and the story you can pull from is, hey, that first play didn’t go how we wanted it. Anybody could have gone in the tank after that. That was a tough play to come back from and not what you want to go out there and do. But, your response is the most important thing. Your response is usually how you’re seen as a person. I thought he came out and had a great response and took over the game.”
On top of Johnson’s remarkable stat line, he also added a 47-yard punt return that nearly traversed the width of the field. After the game, I asked Johnson what his favorite play of the day was, and he said it was his long punt return.
“It was just the excitement on my teammates’ face. I just go out there and do it for those guys. It felt great,” Johnson said. “The blocking on that play was tremendous. I know it is because if I’m running that free open, I know the blocking was tremendous.”
And while Tez Johnson was happy about the win and his own performance, he continued to emphasize that the teams’ potential to improve was what they needed to focus on.
“We had 63 points on the board, but we didn’t have our best day as an offense. What we had 90-some yards with 9 penalties? That’s not us. That’s who we are as a team,” Johnson said.