Florida QB Johnson breaks leg
Posted: Saturday January 02, 1999 10:49 PM
MIAMI (AP) -- Doug Johnson, who appeared to have won the job as No. 7 Florida's starting quarterback, broke his left leg in the second quarter of Saturday night's Orange Bowl against No. 18 Syracuse.
Johnson, who had led the Gators to a 4-1 record since taking over as the starter, had his ankle bent underneath him with 4:18 left in the half.
Marc Pilon hit Johnson after he threw an 18-yard pass to Nafis Karim to the Syracuse 7.
The junior immediately grabbed his ankle and grimaced as Florida trainers worked on him. The game was stopped for about five minutes until he was wheeled off on a cart. X-rays showed a broken fibula.
Johnson had completed 12 of 17 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns to that point, staking the Gators to a 14-3 lead.
Jesse Palmer, whose broken collarbone allowed Johnson to regain the starting job, came in and threw a 4-yard TD pass to Erron Kinney two plays later. Palmer later scored on a 2-yard run for a 28-3 halftime lead.
Johnson threw for 2,346 yards with 19 touchdowns and just eight interceptions during the season. He began the year alternating plays with Palmer, but was relegated to backup duty Oct. 10 against LSU. Palmer was hurt in the first half of that game.
Earlier this week, coach Steve Spurrier said a good performance would allow Johnson to establish himself as the No. 1 quarterback.
The injury may also affect Johnson's baseball future.
A second-round pick of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays out of high school, he spent the summers of 1996 and '97 in the rookie leagues. He sat out last summer while recovering from rotator-cuff surgery.
Johnson, a third baseman, once ranked as high as the Devil Rays' third-best prospect, according to Baseball America magazine.
In 1996, he hit .231 with one home run and nine RBIs in 28 games at St. Petersburg of the Gulf Coast League. The next year, he hit only .201 with four homers and 19 RBIs in 34 games at Princeton (W.Va.) of the Appalachian League.
Unlike some two-sport prospects, Johnson won't have to repay any of his $400,000 signing bonus if he does not report.
He said recently he would decide after the Orange Bowl whether to play another season of minor league ball or spend the summer working on his football skills.
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