Johnson leads No. 11 Auburn over FAU
Auburn, AL (SportsNetwork.com) - Freshman quarterback Jeremy Johnson replaced an injured Nick Marshall early in the second quarter and threw two touchdown passes to lead No. 11 Auburn to a 45-10 rout of Florida Atlantic on Saturday.
Marshall completed his only pass and rushed for 73 yards and a touchdown on six carries before leaving after he took a hard hit to his right shoulder while absorbing a sack. He did not return.
Johnson, who finished 10-of-16 passing for 192 yards with an interception, took over under center and hit Sammie Coates for a 36-yard touchdown on his first pass before going back to Coates for a 67-yard score later in the frame to help Auburn (7-1) jump out to a comfortable 38-0 cushion.
"We're confident in Jeremy and Jeremy is a really good quarterback," Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said of Johnson. "We know he's got some good experience now and we'll see."
Cameron Artis-Payne racked up 93 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries and Corey Grant and Tre Mason both added a TD run for the Tigers, who have won four straight, including a 45-41 upset of then-No. 7 Texas A&M last week.
Jaquez Johnson accounted for the majority of Florida Atlantic's offense, completing 9-of-20 passes for 133 yards while rushing nine times for 58 yards and the only touchdown of the game for the Owls (2-6), who have lost four of their last five games.
Auburn found the end zone on back-to-back offensive plays early in the first to grab a 14-0 lead.
Mason capped Auburn's opening drive with an 8-yard touchdown run, and after Jonathan Wallace fumbled on FAU's third play from scrimmage, Grant took a carry off the right end and raced 43 yards untouched down the sideline for a 14-0 edge just over 3 1/2 minutes in.
Following a defensive stop from the Tigers, Chris Davis returned the ensuing punt 70 yards to the FAU 28, setting up Marshall's 10-yard TD run four plays later that made it 21-0 with 6:54 left in the first.
A scary moment sucked the life out of the stadium shortly after, as FAU linebacker Freedom Whitfield lowered his head on a special teams tackle and leveled Davis as he fielded a punt.
Davis got up from the hit, but Whitfield remained motionless on the field, prompting the training staff to come running onto the field.
After several minutes, Whitfield was placed on a stretcher and taken off the field, though he did give the crowd a thumbs-up on his way out of the stadium.
"It is scary when you first walk up," FAU head coach Carl Pelini said of the injury to Whitfield. "I thought he was out cold. When you first walk up you are not sure if he is out or if he is just not moving. When he came to and answered a couple questions, although incorrectly, he was moving his arms, but he was still pretty out of it. It was great to see him walking back in that locker room that is for sure."
The injury bug then bit the Tigers early in the second, as Marshall was sacked for an 8-yard loss and took a hard shot to his throwing shoulder before exiting the game.
"I guess it was the play where he went down and we had to go get him," Malzahn said of the injury to Marshall. "There is no update at this time."
Jeremy Johnson found Coates for a 36-yard score down the left sideline on Auburn's next play before following a 43-yard field goal from Cody Parkey with a another deep strike to Coates for a 38-0 lead.
FAU finally found the end zone on its ensuing possession, as Jaquez Johnson capped a 3-play, 67-yard march with a 29-yard TD scamper off the left side that brought the Owls within 38-7 heading into the break.
Mitch Anderson knocked down a 31-yard field goal on FAU's opening touch of the second half to cut into the margin again, but Artis-Payne capped Auburn's ensuing sequence with a 1-yard TD surge to make it 45-10.
Auburn's defense then forced four straight three-and-outs from the FAU offense to complete the victory.
Davis' 70-yard punt return was the longest punt return by an Auburn player since Robert Baker went 79 yards for a TD against South Carolina in 1996 ... Auburn racked up 628 yards of total offense, including 422 on the ground, while the Owls managed just 97 rushing yards and 247 yards of total offense ... Auburn had 27 first downs while holding FAU to 10 ... Coates finished with three catches for 113 yards ... FAU finished 2-for-13 on third-down efficiency.
10/27 00:23:59 ET