Rich Abrahamson, Associated Press
FORT COLLINS — So far this season, Utah has not had a single player earn a Mountain West Player of the Week award.
That should change this week when Robert Johnson is named MWC defensive player of the week following his outstanding three-interception effort in the Utes 24-17 victory. In fact, if Johnson isn't named MWC Player of the Week, they may as well shut down the award forever.
Heck, maybe Johnson should be the National Defensive Player of the Week after what he did Saturday at Hughes Stadium.
Johnson came up with three interceptions in the final 19 minutes of the game, stopping Colorado State's final three drives of the game by himself. It matched Eric Weddle's three-interception game in 2006 against San Diego State.
"He was the difference in the ball game," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "Robert had a breakout game tonight."
Johnson said he felt bad after giving up some big plays in the Oregon loss.
"I needed to start helping out and making more plays," he said. "I was able to read the quarterback tonight."
Johnson's first interception with 3:19 in the third quarter left helped start the Utes on a 17-play, game-tying drive. Johnson came across from his free-safety position to help Brandon Burton and leap for the grab.
The second, with 7:56 left in the game, jump-started the Utes to the game-winning 73-yard drive. It was similar to the first as he came over to help on the right sideline and picked the ball off above the receiver.
Johnson used his "knowledge" to snag the ball over running back Lou Greenwood, who was streaking down the right sideline. It was similar to his first pick as he leaped for the interception just before he fell out of bounds.
"I saw 33 was in the backfield and usually you don't see him in the game," Johnson said. "So I kept my eye on him and then just played the ball."
Johnson grabbed his third interception with 2:15 left and returned it 42 yards to clinch the game for the Utes. Stucker's pass was underthrown and Johnson reached back to snag it. Then he took off up the right sideline before he was tackled at the Ute 29-yard line after a 42-yard run.
Of that one, Johnson said, "I wanted to score."
Whittingham said he wasn't surprised by Johnson's effort.
"I was talking to him earlier in the week and told him he had a great chance to make a huge impact because they like to throw the ball down field," Whittingham said. "He made the most of it."
For the season, Johnson has four interceptions and also has two fumble returns, one for a touchdown. He has 11 interceptions for his career.
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