COLLEGE STATION -- Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher needed to make a change. Who knew that would lead to a promising victory before the start of conference play?
Fisher elected to start quarterback Max Johnson Saturday night in the No. 24 Aggies' 17-9 win over No. 13 Miami. Johnson, a junior transfer from LSU, was far from perfect, but his efficiency and consistent passing early set A&M (2-1) up for the victory late.
"I'm very confident with [Max]," Fisher said. "He did some really nice things, and I can't wait to see the film because he got some pressures and he got some really good reads."
Following mixed play from initial starter Haynes King to begin the season, Fisher said that the team would be open to making a switch at the position if the timing was right. Johnson outperformed King in practice, earning him the starting job.
Stat lines will tell one story. Eyes will tell another. Johnson looked comfortable from the get-go commanding the huddle in front of a packed Kyle Field against the Hurricanes' defense. He connected early with tight end Donovan Green for a gain of 18 and receiver Ainias Smith for a gain of 16.
The Aggies nearly scored on Johnson's first drive, but a dropped pass from running back Devon Achane forced them to settle for a 26-yard field goal from kicker Randy Bond. The two would connect in the third quarter for a 25-yard score, giving A&M a 17-3 lead.
"I hit him about eight yards deep, and he ended up doing the rest, which is kind of cool," Johnson said of Achane. "We don't really see that a lot from a bunch of running backs. So it was kind of special. We line him up at receiver, line him up in the backfield. He kind of does it all. He's very special."
Johnson finished 10-of-20 passing for 140 yards and a score. Despite not being known for his athletic traits as a runner, Johnson tacked on 23 yards off seven carries, including a pair of first downs on scoring drives.
"The rumor was I couldn't run last year," Johnson joked. "I got to run a little bit in the spring game, which was kind of fun just to change the perception.
"Having the ability when the play breaks down and being able to escape is a big part of my game."
Again, stats will often lie. While the line showed that Johnson completed 10 passes, a handful of throws were on the money that were dropped by receivers. Achane's drop on the opening series was the first of many from A&M's playmakers.
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Devin Price was credited with a drop on 3rd-and-7 play in the first quarter. Chase Lane had three drops in the second and fourth quarter. Smith, who finished with a team-high four catches for 74 yards, dropped a ball early in the fourth quarter that would've gone for a first down.
"We're nowhere close to being perfect, but I'm very proud of this team," Fisher said. "We got better and played a really good football team and won."
Fisher isn't looking toward the past. Neither is Johnson. King won the starting job outright over the summer, but Johnson never wavered in practice. And when his number was called upon, he delivered.
Fans might wonder what could've been if Johnson was named QB1 at the start of the season. Would the offense be more dynamic? Would Johnson have been consistent enough to lead A&M to a win over Appalachian State in Week 2?
Fisher said there still would be a chance for King to have a role in the offense moving forward. For now, the job is Johnson's to lose. Consistency and quick decision-making kept the offense clicking under the left-handed passer early.
The next step will be putting it all together for four quarters. That, and find the end zone regularly.
"Miami had a really good defense, a really good team," Johnson said. "I think our guys have to come ready to work with a great mindset next week. I do feel like we need to put up more points."
The Aggies will travel to Arlington next Saturday to face No. 10 Arkansas at AT&T Stadium.
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