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6 Days ‘Til Alabama Football: Marquis Johnson outwits Steve Spurrier, outduels Alshon Jeffery

OBC meets his match.

Alabama Crimson Tide v Clemson Tigers Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images

Marquis Johnson was born in fire.

From his first year under Nick Saban getting torched by FSU’s De’Cody Fagg, to being the victim of Tim Tebow’s legendary fourth quarter comeback in the following year’s SEC Championship, Marquis earned cornerback wisdom the hard way -- getting beat.

That’s why, in 2009, as No. 22 South Carolina visited No. 2 Alabama, Coach Steve Spurrier knew that the tall, athletic superstar Alshon Jeffery was a great matchup against the undersized Johnson. If only the Gamecocks could get in position to take advantage of the matchup and given his penchant for the them, everyone knew we’d see the post-corner, deep fades, and endzone fades en route to a big day for Alshon.

With Alabama clinging to a 10-0 lead late in the second quarter of a bend-don’t-break defensive meisterwerk by the Gamecocks, USC finally found a way to penetrate the Tide red zone. The most obvious mismatch on the field was time to be tested: the 6’3” future NFL star vs. the 5’10” Johnson.

First-and-goal from the ‘Bama five: Stephen Garcia overshoots Jeffery in the back of the endzone on the corner fade. INCOMPLETE.

Second-and-goal from ‘Bama five: Garcia lofts a nice ball towards the corner of the pylon, and Jeffery high-points the catch. It should be a clean touchdown, but Johnson stays in phase with his man and jams his arm between the ball and the receiver’s hands, forcing it out as he and Alshon tumble to the ground. INCOMPLETE.

Third-and-goal from the ‘Bama five: Johnson plays Jeffrey on the press, taking away the inside, even as Justin Woodall rolls over from his safety spot to cut off routes in the back of the endzone. With nowhere safe to go with the ball, Garcia overshoots Alshon on the sideline. INCOMPLETE.

The Gamecocks would be forced to kick a field goal and settle for a touchdown deficit. Coupled with a Tide pick-six, that experience effectively took the air out of the South Carolina offense for the balance of the night.

For Johnson, his night was night far from done. Several other times that evening, he would be tested by Steve Spurrier. And Johnson was up to the task: shutting Jeffery out of the endzone, and collecting six pass break-ups in the process. It was his moment of redemption, and he rose to the occasion.

The little engine that could, the one man that opponents tried to exploit, stepped into Alabama history, tying a school record for six PBUs in a game, joining the legendary John Mangum.

If you’d like a more thorough remembering of the game, we covered Johnson’s redemption in-depth in the week that followed. That game is remembered, of course, for Mark Ingram’s Heisman drive and for Johnson’s end zone exploits. But never lose sight of the fact that two years of coming up short led to the career-defining for Johnson and an Alabama record.

Experience truly is the best teacher.

6 days ‘til Alabama football.

Roll Tide