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Johnson goes out, Snead steps up

E Carolina SMU Football
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East Carolina inside receiver Tyler Snead (22) advances the ball while SMU safety Chace Cromartie (18) attempts a tackle during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, November 9, 2019

DALLAS — Tyler Snead, all 5-foot-7 and 167 pounds of him, chased and nearly grabbed NCAA history Saturday afternoon at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in East Carolina football's 59-51 loss at SMU.

Snead’s 19 receptions were four shy of tying the single-game national record and three away from the 22 Zay Jones had for ECU in a 2016 game at South Carolina.

This SMU-ECU contest featured 110 total points and 1,280 total yards. Snead shook and juked around SMU defenders like a rising star. His performance also came one week after Pirate true freshman standout C.J. Johnson produced the most receiving yards ever in a game by an American Athletic Conference player.

Johnson left the SMU game late in the first quarter injured and watched from the sideline, initially with a towel hanging over his head and the sides of his face, as Snead and other Pirate receivers stepped up in ECU's valiant attempt in knocking off No. 23 SMU (9-1, 5-1 AAC).

"It was just going by fast, taking the next-play mentality," said Snead, a redshirt freshman who played in four games late in the 2018 season and totaled 24 catches during the first nine games of this year. "I was just trying to win out there."

Snead's 19 receptions included TD catches of 36, 47 and 57 yards.

Pirate coach Mike Houston did not elaborate on the specifics of Johnson's injury during his postgame news conference, but the coach did say he expects him to be ready for ECU's next contest Nov. 23 at Connecticut.

"I would say it should just be a day or so," Houston said. "It's a minimal injury. Shouldn't be any time at all."

Johnson had a reception in every game of his freshman season, but that streak was stopped after Saturday's untimely exit. He came into Saturday leading among all freshmen in the country with 682 receiving yards.

The Greenville native shined last Saturday night at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, setting a new AAC record with 283 yards when the Pirates nearly upset No. 17 Cincinnati, falling 46-43 on a last-second field goal in a shootout.

“He went out early, but I just tried to stick to the game plan and kept playing,” Snead said.

More playing time for UCLA transfer Audie Omotosho also surfaced after Johnson's exit. Omotosho finished with four catches for 77 yards and a touchdown, scoring his first-career TD with a 22-yarder in the corner of the end zone with 1:55 remaining.

"He played well in limited action last week and had a really good week of practice this week," Houston said. "We spoke during the pregame meal that he was excited to be back in Texas (as a Plano native) and had some friends coming to the game. I asked him this morning if it just took him half of a season to get in shape, but it's one of those things when kids transfer late in the summer ... that now you are seeing a guy who is a legitimate threat over there."

For all the great offense by the Pirates, which featured Snead's big day and included quarterback Holton Ahlers passing for 498 yards and six touchdowns on 32-of-42 accuracy, it came in an ECU close loss to a ranked team for the second straight week. The Pirates (3-7, 0-6 American) have a bye before finishing their season at Connecticut and home versus Tulsa.

"We're going to finish strong," Snead said. "That is our goal, to win every game. This week is big. We'll get after it this next week, for sure, and come out even hungrier than today."

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