Jeremy Johnson had Auburn off to a fast start in the season-opener
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Jeremy Johnson started and looked fantastic, said his offensive coordinator, and Nick Marshall's play made him proud.
Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee found a lot to like the play of his quarterbacks in last week's 45-21 win over Arkansas, and will be looking for more of the same in Saturday's game against San Jose State in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Johnson filled in as the starter for Marshall in the opener, but Lashlee reminded Monday night that this is Marshall's offense moving forward. Marshall will continue to run the read-option and mix in the pass. Johnson showed off his strong passing arm with 243 yards and two touchdowns, all in the first half.
The opposition will have to at least think about splitting their practice time now preparing for Marshall and Johnson.
And all the while, Lashlee said Johnson did what was expected, even if it was just his second career start.
"Everybody just has a lot of confidence that if something happens we can put Jeremy in and not miss a beat," Lashlee said. "It’s a really good luxury for us right now to have two guys that we have that much confidence in."
Auburn's offense did what Auburn's offense usually does. It ran and passed up and down the field to the tune 595 yards while topping the 30-point plateau for the 11th consecutive game.
Auburn had promised it would pass more this season, and, with Marshall serving a short penalty for an off-the-field incident, the game set up for the Tigers to fulfill the plan. Johnson showed what the talk was about, hitting 12-of-16 passes on the way to all those yards.
"We knew what he was capable of and I think people that saw him play last year felt like he could do a good job. He did fantastic," Lashlee said.
"Obviously, Nick adds another element to the run game in a way that, when he's back there, linebackers, defensive ends, secondary players, everybody is kind of keyed on him differently than they would if he wasn't in the game."
After trying to stop the pass in the first half, Auburn's change of pace with Marshall took its toll on the defense.
"We typically run the ball better in the third and fourth quarter as the game wears on," Lashlee said. "That's one of those things we like to accomplish with our tempo, but there's no question that when Nick is back there there's another dimension they have to account for."
Like the 3,000 yards and the 26 touchdowns he accounted for last season.
Johnson played like a veteran against Arkansas as well.
"He had great poise I thought," Lashlee said. "He didn't have any busts. He had one or two throws that maybe could have been delivered better. The receivers bailed him out on a couple. He played really well.
"I was more worried about him being overexcited than nervous. He just played like a kid out there having a blast. I was really proud of the way he responded. He gave our team a lift. Three straight touchdown drives to start the game… and then those couple throws late."
Now, Lashlee wants Marshall to return to his normal role with a chance to throw meaningful passes. He was only 4-of-6 passing against Arkansas as Auburn went to the run after jumping to a comfortable lead in the second half.
"Since he played only a half of the last game, you want him to come out and play well," he said. "I just want to see him come out and show how sharp and crisp he's become as a passer and, hopefully, he'll do that on Saturday."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine