Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Johnson Set to Face Ghosts of SEC Past Trip Back to Baton Rouge

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Johnson Set to Face Ghosts of SEC Past Trip Back to Baton Rouge

Article excerpt

GAINESVILLE --- He will walk on the field in the big-bowled stadium late this afternoon, strangely yet fittingly pulled into what he has run from for so long.

Who knows what will go through Doug Johnson's mind when the Florida Gators hold their walk-through at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La., today. The interceptions and the lost season; the mistake and eventual low point of his college career.

It has been almost two years since that day when a 19-year-old on top of the college football world nearly lost it all: His starting job, his honeymoon as the Florida quarterback, and most importantly, the innocence of amateur sports.

"I'm not taking this any different than any other game," Johnson says.

How could he not? It was nearly two years ago to the day that his sophomore season went from fantastic to frazzled in one steamy night on the Bayou. He was the quarterback who entered the game with 20 touchdown passes, and responded with four interceptions in the top-ranked Gators' 28-21 loss.

He was behind center when Florida's 25-game Southeastern Conference winning streak --- and its perceived invincibility in the league --- came crashing down as fast as the goalposts in Tiger Stadium. He was the player, who, two days after the game, was suspended for a game by coach Steve Spurrier for missing curfew the night before the team left for Baton Rouge.

A game later, he started and played poorly --- and was benched --- in a loss to Georgia. It was UF's first loss to the Bulldogs since 1989, a loss that cost the Gators the East Division title and a chance at the SEC Championship.

It all began to unravel with the LSU game. This obviously isn't just another game.

"As an athlete, any time you don't play as well as you think you should, there's incentive the next time around," said UF guard Cheston Blackshear. "Doug wants to play well in every game. But I'm sure this one is a little different."

It's also more than just personal. …

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