Washington coach Kalen DeBoer expects RB Dillon Johnson to play in national championship game against Michigan

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Washington running back Dillon Johnson is expected to play in the College Football Playoff National Championship against No. 1 Michigan, Huskies coach Kalen DeBoer said during a media teleconference Wednesday. Johnson aggravated an existing foot injury during the Huskies’ 37-31 victory over No. 3 Texas in the Sugar Bowl.

“It’s something he’s been working through for a couple months now,” DeBoer told reporters. 

Johnson was seen limping on the sideline earlier in the game, but needed help leaving the field after attempting to run the clock out on third down. The injury allowed Texas to stop the clock before fourth down and the Longhorns the ball back with more than 40 seconds left on the clock to score a potential game-winning touchdown. 

In an appearance on 93.3 KJR FM Radio in Seattle on Tuesday, Huskies offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb said X-rays taken at the SuperDome returned negative for any structural damage. 

While the numbers are modest, Johnson has been a game-changer for Washington since transferring from Mississippi State. Johnson rushed for 1,162 yards and 16 touchdowns. More importantly, Johnson has 10 touchdowns for Washington in six games against then-ranked opponents, including a pair in the win over Texas. His 49 yards on 21 carries against Texas does not jump off the page, but he was on the field for several key conversions and scores. 

Washington has talent behind Johnson, but limited experience. Backups Will Nixon and Tybo Rogers combined for just under 400 yards on 74 carries for Washington. Neither boasts the physicality of the 218-pound Johnson. 

The Huskies prepare for the biggest game in program history on Monday as No. 2 Washington plays No. 1 Michigan for its first national championship of the unified championship era. Washington is 4.5-point underdogs against the Wolverines, according to the SportsLine Consensus. Michigan boasted the No. 8 national rushing defense during a 14-0 campaign, but surrendered 172 yards and two touchdowns against Alabama. Still, the Wolverines’ defensive line presents the biggest challenge of Washington’s season. 


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