The crowd is here. And the lights are on. And they want a show.
And oh, oh, oh, did they get one.
No, I’m not talking about Lupe Fiasco, who drew quite a crowd himself at Sunday night’s homecoming concert with his hit “Superstar.”
And forget whoever wins CSU Idol.
No, I’m talking about Gartrell Godfrey Johnson III, the real superstar on campus.
It took a few games, but “The Predator” was finally unleashed. Unfortunately for the Rebel defense, Arnold Schwarzeneggar wasn’t there to help, as he was in the movie.
Nope, there was no time to “get in tha choppa.”
Carrying the ball 33 times for 191 yards and three touchdowns, Johnson lead the Rams to an ever-so-crucial win Saturday at Hughes.
Ever-so-crucial considering CSU plays the Mountain West’s terrific trio (TCU, Utah, BYU) three out of the next four games.
With the Rams down by one late in the fourth, Johnson helped chew up all but nine seconds of the remaining 6:05 left on the clock. During the 12-play, 80-yard drive, the 6-foot, 225-pound senior from Miami pounded the ball nine times for 49 yards and scored the go-ahead touchdown. And to top it all off, he then punched in the two-point conversion, despite looking more winded than a fat man in a marathon.
UNLV coach Mike Sanford, who has now lost to CSU four times in a row, said of Johnson: “We didn’t tackle him well enough.”
CSU coach Steve Fairchild provided a pretty good explanation of why.
“You know, a guy his size, safeties and linebackers don’t want to keep coming at him when you’re a warrior like he is,” Fairchild said.
Warrior, Predator, Superstar. Doesn’t matter. What matters is that Johnson is the man.
Coming into the season, the depth of the Rams’ backfield was supposed to be a strength with as many as four players poised to make an impact.
But as Johnson proved Saturday, the strength of one might just be better than the strength of many.
The Predator averaged nearly six yards a carry, but more impressively, he was never stopped for a loss.
“G is amazing. He’s the best out of all of us,” said fellow back-mate John Mosure, whose wild touchdown on the game’s final play gave the Rams an unexpected 13-point win in a game they trailed late into the fourth quarter.
Funny how quickly things can change, especially at the running back position.
It might be easy to forget, but for the longest time Gartrell was considered anything but a warrior.
Instead, that role was filled by Kyle Bell, who three years ago was destined for greatness after setting a school record for rushing yards by a sophomore.
But then, during the following fall season, Bell tore his ACL and was replaced by Johnson, who struggled mightily and averaged a measly 2.8 yards a carry.
Things were so tough for Gartrell that year, at one point a former CSU coach joked with me that he should be moved to fullback.
Now, two years later, Johnson is the superstar while Bell is the one who could use a change in position.
Funny how quickly things change.
Sports columnist Sean Star can be reached at email@example.com.