Johnson headlines FCS players of the week

Philadelphia, PA ( – In 2013, the Montana State Bobcats made
a bit of an offensive switch, going from a pass-heavy system to a more run-
integrated style of play. The reason wasn’t because the team was unstable
at quarterback, but rather due to the fact the Bobcats were loaded at the
running back position.

Then-senior Cody Kirk and junior Shawn Johnson were a powerful and perfectly
complementary backfield tandem, but the graduation of Kirk following last
year’s campaign left Johnson as the odds-on favorite to get the bulk of the
carries in 2014.

That’s all well and good, but Johnson serves a much greater role on the team
than just a ball carrier. As a senior this season, Johnson is the main man in
the return game, both on kickoffs and punts. He showed just how explosive and
freakishly athletic he can be Saturday with a standout performance in Montana
State’s narrow loss to Eastern Washington, 52-51.

Johnson served as the primary rusher in the game, taking 14 carries for a
career-high 150 yards with a (70-yard) touchdown. Coming out of the backfield
as a pass catcher, Johnson hauled in three receptions for 62 yards, adding a
pair of scores.

It’s usually a mistake to give Johnson the ball when he has space to create
plays, but Eastern Washington did just that in the kicking game. The senior
back took four kickoffs for 141 yards, and returned one punt for 22 yards. In
all, Johnson registered 374 all-purpose yards on the 22 touches and he scored
three touchdowns in the loss to the second-ranked Eagles. The 374 yards rank
sixth-best for a single game in Big Sky Conference history, and set a Montana
State single-game record.

Because of Johnson’s other-worldly numbers, he highlights the list of FCS
national players of the week. Johnson, Stetson’s Donald Payne, Grambling
State’s Tyree Hollins, Jacksonville’s Ryan Giaratano, and Albany’s Josh
Gontarek were all named to the weekly honors.


Shawn Johnson, Montana State, RB, Sr., 5-10, 180, Bakersfield, California

Johnson’s 374 all-purpose outburst set a Montana State record in a game that
featured a combined 103 points scored. Thanks to the big game, Johnson now
ranks first in the Big Sky Conference in all-purpose yards per game (181.3),
which is good for a ninth-place rank nationally. Johnson has accumulated 3,519
all-purpose yards in his career at MSU, which is fourth in Bobcats history. The
senior scored three touchdowns on Saturday in the loss – a 70-yard rush, and 9-
and 46-yard receptions. He averaged 17 yards every time he touched the ball on


Donald Payne, Stetson, DB, So., 6-0, 215, Fayetteville, Georgia

Payne was all over the field Saturday in Stetson’s non-conference win against
Birmingham-Southern. The opponent wasn’t the most challenging for Stetson, but
it was the way Payne filled up the defensive stat sheet that was impressive.
The sophomore defensive back registered a game-high 13 tackles in the Hatters’
37-19 win, adding three tackles for loss, one sack, a forced fumble, an
interception and three quarterback hurries to his resume. His third-quarter
interception stopped a Birmingham-Southern drive at the Stetson 23-yard line.

Tyree Hollins, Grambling State, DB, Sr., 5-20, 185, Monroe, Louisiana

Perhaps this was a statement game by Grambling State, considering the way
things played out prior to the Tigers’ scheduled Southwestern Athletic
Conference matchup with Jackson State last year. GSU held on late in the
contest Saturday to beat Jackson State, 40-35, and Hollins was a big reason for
that defensively. Hollins registered a team-high 10 tackles in the win, adding
two tackles for loss (including one sack) and two interceptions to seal his
team’s fate. He totaled 82 yards on interception returns, and recorded six solo
stops, which is his highest total this season.


Ryan Giaratano, Jacksonville, P, So., 6-1, 195, Coral Springs, Florida

Giaratano’s punting skills came in very handy in Jacksonville’s huge 34-31 win
over Penn Saturday in Florida. The sophomore punted six times in the contest
and averaged a staggering 51.2 yards per kick. His long topped out at 67 yards
(Giaratano punted from the Dolphins’ 33-yard line, and his kick ended
up in Penn’s end zone), while his shortest punt on the day traveled 46 yards.
Giaratano also carried the ball once for 22 yards – on a 4th-and-13 from his
own 29-yard line – giving his Pioneer Football League team a much-needed first


Josh Gontarek, Albany, WR, Fr., 5-11, 170, Mount Airy, Maryland

With his team leading Rhode Island, 30-14, midway through the fourth quarter
Saturday, the Albany freshman receiver hauled in a 9-yard touchdown pass to
further distance his Great Danes in the contest en route to the team’s 37-20
victory. Gontarek caught a team high-tying five passes in the game for an
Albany-best 87 yards, adding the receiving score. He also added one kickoff
return for 16 yards, giving the freshman a combined 103 all-purpose yards in
the contest. Thanks to the CAA Football win, Albany (3-0) moved up into the FCS
Top 25.