It was a successful debut for the Montana State University-Northern football team on a glorious day at Blue Pony Stadium.
But perhaps no individual debut around the Frontier Conference was bigger than that of MSU-N wide receiver Kyle Johnston.
I knew Johnston was a great pick up for the Lights when I went to their first practice of the season last month. Johnston is a speedy, 5-8, 170-pound junior college transfer from Redding, Calif., and throughout fall camp, he showcased a special skill set – speed, agility, cuts, pass catching ability and football savvy.
But that’s practice. On Saturday, Johnston showed he’s a gamer too.
Johnston led all receivers with 155 yards on just five catches. He also made several electrifying punt returns. But no play was bigger than the one that started the second quarter when Johnston hauled in a Derek Lear pass and raced 80 yards, weaving through traffic and leaving many Bulldogs in his wake for his first score as a Light.
It was splash to be sure, and that play will have Northern fans wanting to see more, and opposing opponents watching and talking about it in the film rooms around the league for weeks to come.
“It felt really good,” Johnston said. “It is weird being at a new school, but I wanted to have a good debut as a Light. I had no idea what to expect coming in, but I knew our team was ready and we just did our thing. I think the first half we were firing on all cylinders, and though we were a little rusty, we still got the win.”
And win the Lights did, and one of the newest Lights was a big reason why.
Johnston not only made big plays, but he gives Northern an added dynamic to an already explosive offense. MSU-N threw him several swing passes which eventually draws the defense up closer to the line of scrimmage. That opens up big pass plays down the field and the Lights connected on several in the first half.
So while a lot of Lights, and the team as a whole sparkled on the opening day of the 2011 season, Johnston was busy, he was flying and he flew right into Blue Pony Stadium and made an impact that will be felt for the rest of the season.
It all happened pretty fast, and it was a blur, because while he made big plays and he’s lighting quick, he’s small in stature. But it was very fun to watch.
Welcome to Northern Kyle Johnston, or as he’s known in the locker room simply as “K.J.”. Not only will that nickname be hard to forget, but it’s one I think we’re going to be hearing quite often over the next three months.