Johnson, Tigers Cruise Past the Catamounts

Jeremy Johnson's collegiate debut was impressive as the Tigers defeated Western Carolina 62-3 on a record-setting day for the Auburn offense at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Auburn, Ala.--Jeremy Johnson's college debut was impressive, but not unexpected from his teammates and head coach, as Auburn cruised to a record-setting offensive performance in a 62-3 Homecoming victory over Western Carolina on Saturday.

Filling in for injured starting quarterback Nick Marshall, Johnson threw four touchdown passes playing one half plus the opening series of the third quarter before giving way to Jonathan Wallace.

Johnson completed 17-21 passes for 201 yards and had one pass intercepted on a day the Tigers didn't have to punt as they racked up a school-record for total offense. With 511 yards on the ground at an average of 11.9 yards per rush the Tigers finished with 712 yards.

On a beautiful, sun-drenched day fans were treated to a focused performance from the home team as the Tigers took control early vs. Western Carolina.

"The big thing that stood out to me is I really feel like our team got better today," Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said.

"Our coaches really challenged the guys that 'hey, we need to get better each week.' A lot of teams in similar situation wouldn't have. I am very proud of our team that in the fact they went out there and took care of business today."

Commenting on Johnson, whose last game action was in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl last January, Malzahn said, "I thought Jeremy did a solid job. I think he made good decisions. Our line protected him extremely well. He has been playing very well in practice and it carried over today."

"He has been playing very well in practice," added Malzahn, who said he wanted to make it clear that Marshall is still the No. 1 quarterback and will be back on the field as soon as he is physically able to do that. The coach said he doesn't know if Marshall will be ready for next week's game at Texas A&M.

"We felt great about Jeremy and it feels great to get him some in-game experience," Malzahn added. "Nick's our starting quarterback--that's the bottom line, but at the same time Jeremy will help this team win the rest of the season. We have been thinking about playing him for a couple of weeks now."

Johnson said he didn't know for sure he was starting until Friday evening when the team was on buses headed for Montgomery where they spend the night before home games. "Coach (Rhett) Lashlee called me up to the front and asked me if I was ready and I told him yes. He told me we were going to start me and from that point I stayed focused and prayed."

The 62 points were the most for the Tigers since putting 65 on the board vs. Arkansas in 2010. If Malzahn hadn't taken the foot off the gas pedal in the second half by intentionally not trying to score more points the Tigers could have probably finished with around 100 vs. the out-manned Catamounts.

"Coach Malzahn is a class act," WCU head coach Mark Speir said. "That game could have been a lot uglier than it was. I didn't know Coach Malzahn, but I have got a lot of respect for that man. I wish Auburn nothing but the best from here on out and good luck next week against the Aggies."

Auburn improved to 5-1 with the win while Western Carolina dropped to 1-6. "They just out-manned, out-powered us," Speir said.

Auburn's previous high yardage total came in 1985, Bo Jackson's Heisman Trophy winning season, when the Tigers gained 695 yards vs. Southwest Louisiana. In that game the Tigers rushed for a school-record 565 yards. Auburn's 511 on Saturday is the third most in school history.

"Our main mission today was to come into the game and play hard and fast, and that is what we did," said senior fullback Jay Prosch, who caught the first touchdown pass of his life on a throw from Johnson. "It was great for our second and third string guys to get in there. We took care of business, did what we needed to and a lot of guys got to play."

Cameron-Artis Payne rushed for 133 yards and one TD on seven carries, Tre Mason added 100 on six first half carries, Corey Grant added 83 yards on five carries and walk-on Chandler Shakespeare had the most rushed with 10 and finished with 61 yards.

Western Carolina was held to 173 yards of total offense with 107 coming through the air.

First Half Highlights:

Less than two minutes into the contest the Tigers were up 7-0 as Mason raced into the end zone from 20 yards out to cap a drive that covered 74 yards on six plays with five on the ground. The other play was Johnson's first pass, a 15-yard gainer to Trovon Reed.

Tre Mason heads to the end zone for Auburn's first score.

The Tigers scored in five plays on their second possession with Johnson connecting with fullback Prosch for the score on an eight-yard play. The freshman quarterback threw the ball while rolling to his right and threw a perfect pass that Prosch could catch even wearing a protective cast on his hand.

Western Carolina got on the scoreboard by moving 43 yards on 10 plays on its third possession before settling on a 49-yard field goal into the wind by Richard Sigmon with 3:51 left in the first quarter.

Auburn more than matched that less than a minute later as Johnson threw a perfect 46-yard pass to Ricardo Louis on a deep route over the middle to put the Tigers up 21-3. Louis led the Tigers in receiving yardage with 53 on three catches while adding a pair of runs for 41 yards.

Ricardo Louis made his first college touchdown catch on Saturday.

Auburn's next score came with 13:54 left in the second quarter when Corey Grant raced around right end on a statute of liberty play to cap a drive that covered 86 yards in just six plays. Grant showed his sprinter's speed on the run that made the score 28-3.

Mason rushed 53 yards for Auburn's fifth touchdown as he ran raced around right end on a one-play possession for the home team.

Auburn scored one more time before intermission as wide receiver Tony Stevens caught a 22-yard pass with 1:38 left in the half on a perfectly thrown toss from fellow freshmen Johnson.

At The Half

Leading 42-3 at the break Auburn did it with 244 rushing yards on just 16 carries. Johnson hit 13-17 passes for 183 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.

The Catamounts managed just three first downs in the first half. On 28 plays Western Carolina netted 89 yards with 52 on the ground on 20 carries while hitting 4-8 passes for 37 yards.

Second Half Highlights:

Working behind the No. 2 offensive line to open the second half, the Tigers drove 71 yards for a score on eight plays. On first and goal at the three Johnson rifled a scoring pass to Bray to make the score 49-3.

Auburn moved 86 yards on just four plays for the next touchdown, a 25-yard run up the middle by Artis-Payne.

The final score came on a 38-yard run by Johnathan Ford, who played cornerback in the game and spends almost all of his practice time on defense.

"The line opened a great hole for me and I am just thankful I was able to run the ball," the true freshman said. "It doesn't matter where I play. I just want to be a team player."

Stat Of the Game:

Auburn averaged 11.0 yards on its 65 offensive plays.

Game Statistics


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