Jermaine Whitehead scored a defensive touchdown for the Tigers.
Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn defense got pushed around in the first half while giving up 266 yards offense and 21 points that resulted in a 21-21 tie at intermission of Saturday’s season opener at Jordan Hare Stadium vs. the Arkansas Razorbacks.
However, the second half was a different story as Defensive Coordinator Ellis Johnson’s defense adjusted by limiting the Razorbacks to only 61 yards (eight rushes for two yards) and--most importantly--no points.
One of the key plays by the defense came after Auburn had taken a 28-21 lead on its first possession of the third quarter. With 2:39 left in the third period, “star” rover Robenson Therezie blitzed and nailed Razorback quarterback Brandon Allen. The ball floated in the air and safety Jermaine Whitehead pulled in the errant pass and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown to give Auburn a cushion at 35-21 following Daniel Carlson’s extra point.
Whitehead wanted to talk about his fellow defenders when describing his touchdown.
“The D-line made some blocks and cracked on some people,” he said. “I can’t wait to watch it on film. All 10 guys were there to help me get into the end zone. The defense gave us one (touchdown) we needed.”
Massive defensive lineman Montravius Adams used his 306 pounds to push a defender about eight yards to pave the way for Whitehead to reach the end zone for his second career interception return for a TD.
“Montravius was the first guy I thanked,” Whitehead said. “He wanted to make a play on that guy and I appreciated it. He says whenever we get a pick he wanted to get a crackback. He got his chance and he did it.” Whitehead said.
What was he thinking when the ball was floating in the air when fellow defensive back Johnathan Ford allowed the senior Whitehead make the interception? “I didn’t know if I was going to get hit hard or not,” he said.
“When I looked up field I saw the blocks and headed to the end zone,” added Whitehead, who made nifty cutback behind his blockers on the play. “It brought back memories of my offensive days in high school.”
News and Notes:
*In his second career start, sophomore quarterback Jeremy Johnson made the most of his opportunity taking over for normal starter Nick Marshall, whose punishment for an off-the-field issue included not being able to open the season as the starter.
Johnson was 7-for-7 passing in the opening for 186 yards and a touchdown in the opening quarter then connected with Duke Williams for a 18 -yard touchdown on his first pass of the second quarter.
*Johnson’s first incompletion after eight straight connections came when Ricardo Lewis dropped a bubble screen early in the second quarter. That led to Auburn having to punt for the first time after three straight touchdown scoring possessions.
Johnson finished the first half 12-of-16 for 243 yards and two touchdowns before yielding to Marshall to start the second half. Johnson (243 yards in first half) is the first Auburn quarterback to throw for more than 200 yards in a half since Cam Newton in 2010 vs. South Carolina in the SEC championship game (281 yards in first half).
*Marshall led Auburn on nine-play, 78-yard drive on his first series during which he completed three passes and capped the drive on a 19-yard ready option run for the touchdown. Marshall’s touchdown run was the 13th rushing score of his career. He has rushed for a touchdown in six consecutive games.
Nick Marshall scores for the Tigers.
*With 154 yards receiving in his first game for Auburn, D’haquille Williams produced the 12th best receiving day ever in an Auburn uniform. That is the best receiving total by a Tiger since Darvin Adams (217 yards) in the 2010 SEC championship game vs. South Carolina. It is the most receiving yards ever by an Auburn player in his first game. With nine receptions, Williams ranks tied for ninth in most receptions in a game. It’s the most catches by an Auburn player since Emory Blake (10) vs. Arkansas in 2012.
*Another highly-regarded Auburn receiver, Sammie Coates, only had one catch for 13 yards and got his hands on pass in the end zone from Marshall that got away after it may have been partially tipped by a defender.
*Cameron Artis-Payne’s first-quarter touchdown carry was the seventh of his career. He finished with an Auburn career-high 177 yards on 26 attempts (6.8 yards per carry). This was his third career 100-yard rushing game. This is Auburn’s seventh consecutive game with a 100-yard rusher.
*Artis-Payne’s 177 yards rushing and 154 receiving yards by Williams marks the first time Auburn has had a 150-yard rusher and a 150-yard receiver in the same game since Carnell Williams (177 rushing) and Tim Carter (156 receiving) did it against Arkansas in 2001.
*Auburn is now 306-5 when scoring at least 30 points and it has scored 30 points or more in 11 straight games.
*First-time starters for Auburn vs. Arkansas were DE Montravius Adams, S Johnathan Ford, OT Shon Coleman, WR D’haquille Williams and TB Cameron Artis-Payne.