No. 7 Baylor down to 3rd QB in Big 12 title, playoff pursuit
WACO, Texas (AP) Chris Johnson was catching passes instead of throwing them for No. 7 Baylor until about a month ago.
Now the third-year sophomore will be the third starting quarterback this season for the Bears, who go into Friday night's game at No. 15 TCU still with hopes for a third consecutive Big 12 title - and maybe even a spot in the College Football Playoff.
''I don't want to look at it from that perspective as me being the guy to do it,'' Johnson said. ''I know having my teammates around me, they're all great players. So I don't have to go out there and do anything spectacular or special. I just have to go out there and do my job as the quarterback.''
Johnson was moved to receiver just before the season after freshman Jarrett Stidham earned the backup role behind starting quarterback Seth Russell during preseason camp.
The 6-foot-5, 235-pound Johnson was switched back to quarterback after Russell sustained a season-ending neck injury Oct. 24. And now Stidham is out after breaking a bone in his right ankle during Saturday's 45-35 win over previously undefeated Oklahoma State.
Johnson accounted for three touchdowns in the second half after Stidham got hurt.
''With Chris, he always stays ready,'' said Corey Coleman, the national leader with 20 touchdown catches. ''He's real humble. He never really says too much. He never complains about anything. He's really mature.''
Even with Stidham taking over the past three games after Russell was the top-rated FBS passer in his seven starts, Baylor still has the nation's top offense (54 points and 644 yards a game). With Stidham and Johnson both playing against Oklahoma State, the Bears reached 700 total yards for the fourth time this season - and first against a Big 12 team.
Stidham already had a sore back before he took a shot on his throwing (right) hand early against Oklahoma State, and then someone rolled up on his lower right leg before halftime. Coach Art Briles said Wednesday that Stidham wouldn't play in the last two regular-season games but could be back for the Bears' bowl game.
Johnson hit 5 of 10 passes for 138 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He ran six times for 42 yards and another score as Baylor beat a top 10 team on the road for the first time in Briles' eight seasons.
''We knew we were in a situation of where if something happened to Stidham, he'd have to be ready to go, and he was ready,'' Briles said. ''The playbook's open, and we're dialing up the same stuff that we are with Seth and Jarrett because he can deliver. He's good, he can do it. ... He brings another element to the table, too, because he's a big guy that can run. It's good that you can be a little different late in the season.''
Stidham enrolled early at Baylor last January and went through spring drills, just as Johnson did two years before that. Johnson completed his only four passes last season.
When Stidham quickly learned the offense and got stronger, he was tabbed as Russell's backup and Johnson became a seldom-used receiver (three catches for 37 yards) behind Coleman, KD Cannon and Jay Lee - all with at least 34 catches and 714 yards. Now, Johnson will be throwing passes to that group.
''Arguably the best wide receiver tandem in the nation. It makes, for any quarterback, makes it easy,'' Johnson said. ''And with the O-line, too. ... Having the time to go out there, you're going to be confident with those guys around you. All you have to do is relax and throw the ball out there.''
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