What appeared in the box score to be simply a meaningless late touchdown in an eventual 38-6 loss at Chadron State could turn out to be much more meaningful for the Fort Lewis College football team.
The score in question was a 54-yard strike from a freshman quarterback to an upperclass junior-college transfer that cut a 2009 deficit to 35-6.
It also was the moment where Tim Jenkins realized that he and Justin Johnson could make beautiful music together.
Jenkins, the 2009 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Co-Freshman of the Year, and Johnson, the Division II leader in receptions last year and a second-team all-conference selection, stepped on to the scene a year ago and made an instant impact on the Skyhawks' offense.
Jenkins stepped into the starting role Week 2, but it was that pass in Chadron, Neb., late in the year that Jenkins said was the moment he knew he and Johnson had something special.
"I just looked at him and said, 'Can you beat him?'" Jenkins said. "And he beat him, and I threw it deep, and he scored. That was the one where it really started to change for me, and I had all the trust in the world in him."
It was the back half of the schedule that really illustrated the relationship between the two on the field. Johnson's receiving numbers over the final six games of 2009 tell the story:
•at Western State: 13 catches, 171 yards
•vs. Adams State: 13 catches, 158 yards
•at Chadron State: 15 catches, 170 yards, one touchdown
•vs. Nebraska-Kearney: 16 catches, 113 yards, one touchdown
•at New Mexico Highlands: nine catches, 83 yards
•vs. Western New Mexico: 19 catches, 149 yards, two touchdowns
Obviously, it was a rapport that quickly developed for two newcomers to a struggling Skyhawk program in 2009, and as that rapport grew, so did the pair's prominence in the offense.
Jenkins finished the year with 2,476 yards and 15 touchdowns, and Johnson, a preseason second-team All-American as selected by Consensus Draft Services, caught 124 passes for 1,136 yards, leading the nation in catches per game by almost three catches (11.27).
"We stayed a lot after practice," Johnson said. "(It was) just a lot of reps, I guess. ... He got the confidence to throw it to me a lot more towards the end of the season."
It didn't take the pair long to pick up where they left off. With the offense struggling to run the ball in this year's season opener at Montana State, Jenkins went back to old reliable, to the tune of 10 catches and 161 yards for his favorite target.
FLC first-year head coach Cesar Rivas said part of the reason Jenkins targeted Johnson so much in the opener had less to do with a reticence to spread the ball around and more to do with several early drops by Skyhawk wide receivers.
"Justin never should have had those numbers," Rivas said. "He shouldn't have had those numbers because everyone else should have been catching the football. We had eight or nine drops in that game."
Johnson won't be able to sneak up on the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference this season and likely will face greater defensive attention than last season, which places extra emphasis on the entire receiving corps. Rivas said Johnson's been working well with the other receivers to improve the quality of the unit.
"I think you'll see them improve dramatically," Rivas said.
Like most team players, Johnson doesn't care as much about personal numbers as he does FLC finding the win column more often.
"I don't need all those catches; I just want to win," he said. "Throw it to all the other receivers, and hopefully they get some grabs."
The running game also will be critical for FLC, which managed only 22 yards against FCS Montana State two weeks ago.
Jenkins led the team in rushing last season.
"I joked around with ... coach (Brad) Wilson when I hired him as the (offensive) line coach. I told him, 'I don't care if we run the ball 40 times a game for negative-20 yards, we're going to run the football,'" Rivas said.
But Jenkins to Johnson still is the tandem that makes the wheels turn, whether through production or by Johnson drawing defensive attention. The quarterback and receiver also are tight off the field: Madden NFL is a particular point of contention.
Jenkins, not surprisingly, usually is the Indianapolis Colts in the video game, where he can utilize all-everything quarterback Peyton Manning. Johnson opts for the Cincinnati Bengals and their dynamic receiving tandem of Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens.
As far as who wins the majority of the virtual battles: "Usually Justin," Jenkins said.
"I have better reads than him," Johnson said with a laugh.
Jenkins' improvement has come by "leaps and bounds" from last year to this year according to Rivas. Among other goals for this season, Jenkins wants to ensure that Johnson's football career doesn't end after this season.
"Justin has all the talent in the world, so I feel like it's my job to get him to the next level (NFL), because he needs someone to get him good balls," Jenkins said of his senior wide receiver.
It's a gesture from one friend to another. And of his friends, Johnson said he has few better: "We're best friends," he said.