Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for the Hawgs Sports Network. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas and previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He was the 2022 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
'Really happy for him': Hogs thrilled for Johnson's TD run
Arkansas running back Dominique Johnson (20) breaks a tackle by Florida International defensive back Bobby Salla Jr. (32), Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, during the third quarter of the Razorbacks’ 44-20 win over the Panthers at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville. Visit nwaonline.com/photo for the photo gallery.
FAYETTEVILLE — As Arkansas readied for a fourth-and-2 play with less than two minutes left in the first half Saturday against Florida International, a handful of Razorbacks, including freshman running back Isaiah Augustave, entered as subs.
But before Augustave could station next to quarterback KJ Jefferson, he was subbed for running back Dominique Johnson. Seconds later, Johnson was in the end zone.
The redshirt junior returned to the Arkansas sideline and was mobbed by teammates on both sides of the ball.
Offensive lineman Devon Manuel slapped the back of Johnson’s helmet multiple times. Defensive backs Lorando “Snaxx” Johnson, Al Walcott and Jayden Johnson, and wide receiver Jaedon Wilson joined in on the fun as well.
It was a moment worthy of celebration in a 44-20 victory. Johnson’s 31-yard rushing score that put the Razorbacks ahead 31-13 was his first touchdown since Nov. 20, 2021, at Alabama.
“That was a big deal. There was actually [conversation] with that play as well,” Jefferson said with a grin. “The play was called [and] it was a designed quarterback run, but I was like, ‘Domo, we’ve got two yards. I need you to go get it right here.’ I gave it to him and he ended up hitting the hole. [The] O-line did a great job up front handling movement and creating a lane for him to run through.
“He made the most of it. I was extremely proud. The whole team was. I felt like just the adversity he’s faced with his injury and him just continuing to battle and fight, it was just a surreal moment for him as well.
“The whole team was extremely proud of him.”
Johnson in his time at Arkansas has twice torn the ACL in the same knee. The injuries limited him to 4 games played in 2022 and 8 carries for 43 yards.
He entered Saturday’s game with 50 rushing yards on 20 carries this year, but Johnson totaled 62 yards on 6 touches against the Panthers.
“I was really happy for him,” said defensive end Landon Jackson, who suffered a torn ACL early in his college career while at LSU. “I’ve seen him do it plenty of times in fall camp and in practice. I know that ACL is something that is a mental game for a year or two or however long it bothers you.
“I feel like that’s definitely something that let him jump over that mental hump with the ACL. I was happy for him.”
In addition to his touchdown run, Johnson had a pair of third-quarter carries totaling 23 yards, including a 19-yard gain that preceded Jefferson’s 32-yard passing score to receiver Isaiah Sategna.
Johnson’s season-best performance contributed to a season-high 323 yards on the ground for the Razorbacks. It was their most in a regular-season game since last November’s home win over Ole Miss (335).
“It was awesome seeing him breaking the big run,” offensive lineman Brady Latham said. “As a lineman, you have your head buried. You look up and he’s just down the field. It was a jolt of energy, so it was awesome.”
Johnson’s rushing total Saturday was his best in a game since the Outback Bowl (77) against Penn State to cap the program’s nine-win 2021 season.
Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said Johnson’s face was glowing after the touchdown.
“It meant a lot to me. I hope it meant a lot to him,” Pittman added. “The fourth-and-2 deal, there was nobody in the middle of the field. I'm sure he was really excited about it. There was a pretty big hole there and he just ran straight ahead to the goal line.
“I’m really happy for him.”
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.