ATLANTA — Michael Johnson is a pass-rushing force who has a long history of big plays and an equally long history of cramping in games.
Finally, an unexpected remedy for the Georgia Tech defensive end came this month from former teammate and Dallas rookie Tashard Choice.
The running back passed along a recommendation from Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith: Try Pedialyte, the drink designed to combat dehydration in children.
“I trust Tashard so I listen to people when they give me advice, especially someone like that,” Johnson said Tuesday. “And he got it from Emmitt. You can’t question his credibility. It’s like top-notch.”
The tip came after Johnson was limited again in Georgia Tech’s opening win against Jacksonville State. For the first time in his career, the 6-foot-6, 260-pound Johnson is a full-time player instead of just a pass-rush specialist, and he was looking for a way to stay on the field.
Johnson said he had two bottles of the drink before Georgia Tech’s next game at Boston College and one bottle on Thursdays each of the last two weeks.
He says he’s had no cramps since the opener.
He blocked a field goal, deflected two passes, recovered a fumble and had a fourth-down sack in last week’s 38-7 win over Mississippi State.
“I’m just thankful for Tashard to hit me with that information,” Johnson said.
Johnson says he’s not sure the drink deserves full credit. He was taken off some of his special teams duty after the first game and says he has been “more conscious of my overall fluid intake the entire week.”
Just in case, he’s sticking with the drink.
“I’ve used it every week,” he said. “I got some more last week.”
500 for Bowden
Florida State’s Bobby Bowden becomes just the third person in college history to coach 500 games in Saturday’s match against Colorado, joining Penn State’s Joe Paterno and Amos Alonzo Stagg, who has the record at 548 games.
“It’s kind of slipped up on me,” Bowden said Wednesday. “You have to be thankful. How in the world have you lasted that long, to be able to coach 500 ball games.”
Bowden won his 100th, 200th and 400th games, losing No. 300 to Miami 19-16 in 1992 when Dan Mowrey’s field goal try for the tie sailed wide right.
Bowden, who turns 79 in November, entered this decade with a record of 305-84-4 and two national championships, but is a more mortal 70-36 since.
Paterno’s 376 wins are the most among major college coaches. Bowden is one behind at 375.
Duke’s Thad Lewis isn’t just seeing an increase in his passing numbers under new coach David Cutcliffe. The junior has not thrown an interception.
Lewis has thrown for 714 yards with five touchdowns in three games this year, putting him among the ACC leaders in passing efficiency. But he’s avoided critical mistakes, setting a school record with 206 consecutive passes without an interception and approaching the league record of 270 set by Florida State’s Drew Weatherford last year.
His current streak is the longest in the country, easily outdistancing Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow (145) of Florida.
Cutcliffe — who mentored Peyton and Eli Manning in college — has certainly offered no shortage of motivation to keep that trend going.
“One time we had about three picks thrown in practice,” Lewis said. “We had to do an up-down every 5 yards down the field — three times. I was thinking, ‘Man, if we did that in practice, I wonder if I threw an interception in a game what would happen?”’
Other coaches have taken note.
Virginia coach Al Groh had high praise for Lewis this week as he described Cutcliffe’s offense as “basketball on grass.”
“Thad Lewis is the point guard and they’re running the fast break and if it was in Cameron Indoor Stadium and it was their equivalent of it, he’d probably hear the coach standing on the sideline yelling, ‘push the ball, push the ball,”’ Groh said.
“That’s what it is. Get it out, get it moving, get it out into space and get it out to places before the defense can get there,” he said.“It stretches the field as wide as it can go from sideline to sideline with the ability to go all places with the ball. The defense is just stretched all across the field.”
Clearly, it’s working.
Lewis had 358 yards of offense in Duke’s 41-31 victory against Navy on Sept. 13. He was 25-for-35 passing for 317 yards with three TDs, and ran for a career-best 41 yards on 12 tries.