Nov. 5, 2013
Jeremy Johnson watches the flight of his pass for Auburn (Kyle Taylor photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Auburn wasn't sure Nick Marshall could play, so Jeremy Johnson worked all week as if he was going to be the starting quarterback, working with the first team, ready to go at Arkansas if needed.
He wasn't. Marshall's sore shoulder got better and he started, completed 7-of-8 passes and led Auburn to a 35-17 win. Chalk it up as another win for Marshall and another learning experience for Johnson, the rookie quarterback, who got in for a few plays.
"I thought Jeremy did a good job," said offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee. "I was really proud of Jeremy because he prepared last week to be the starter. Once again, there was more package-wise to play, but there were certain things we ended up not doing because it was a weird game the way things unfolded."
Like the fact Arkansas wouldn't let Auburn have the ball in the first half, running 46 plays to the Tigers' 22.
Johnson played sparingly, which has been the case in SEC games since he was summoned to duty after the fifth game of the year. Mostly, he stood ready. He was ready when Nick Marshall was too hurt to play against Western Carolina, so he threw four touchdown passes. He was needed when Marshall was hurt against Florida Atlantic, so he threw two more TD passes.
He'll be on standby, again, when Auburn plays Tennessee this Saturday at 11 a.m. in Knoxville.
Johnson has completed 28-of-40 passes for 408 yards and six touchdowns with two interceptions. Somebody's calculator says that's a passing efficiency of 195.18, and that's good. How good? If he had thrown a lot more passes, and achieved the same results, his passing efficiency would be ranked third in the country. He's nowhere near qualifying to be in that race, and a lot of his good work has been against non-conference opponents, but it may still give a glimpse of what's inside his right arm.
He showed it in the third quarter at Arkansas when he came off the bench and quickly completed a pass to Sammie Coates.
"To come in cold and the first time you're in to throw a 15-yard pass is not an easy thing to do," Lashlee said. "I think that's good. The good thing about it is when we put one of those guys in there he can throw it, and when we put one of them in there he can run it. Obviously they have things they do better than the others, but it's not like you put in this guy and it's only going to be 'this' or you put in this guy and it's only going to be 'this'.
"I was really proud of the way Jeremy prepared. To have not played the whole first half he wasn't down. When he got his chance to start the third quarter he was a big part of that drive that really put some separation for us to start the second half."
Marshall has been the leader in the SEC games. Overall, he's hit 90-of-152 passes for 1,266 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions. He's second on the team in rushing, with 599 yards and five touchdowns.
He added to those numbers in Fayetteville.
"Nick is a tough kid," Lashlee said. "I expected him to be able to give it a go. He didn't get a lot of reps last week at practice so there was some concern there, but he did a good job."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine