All he did was torch Bret Bielema’s team for 243 yards and two touchdowns on 12-16 passing in one half of play. Starting on fire by completing his first eight passes, Johnson pointed out for him the key was about confidence.
“It felt great,” Johnson said. “Like I was telling my teammates, there is no better feeling than being out there. If I could I would rewind it again and do it one more time. It felt great. I’m looking forward to this whole year.
“Once I completed that first pass all my jitters went away,” he added. “Then I threw that first touchdown. After that, in my mind, I was like ‘I’m going to do this.’ My teammates did a great job of protecting me and making me look good.”
Knowing that his time was likely limited because of Marshall being able to play after the first series, Johnson didn’t let that impact his play at all. Comfortable in his role with the Tigers, he said his only job was to play as well as he could in his time in order to help the team win.
“It really wasn’t about playing well to stay in the game,” he said. “Coach told me just to play, no matter if I made a mistake or not, just play. We have been working so hard all fall camp and I felt good going into this game because the coaches had a great plan for me. My teammates around me all made plays. They’re incredible.”
Making many of the plays was junior college transfer D’haquille "Duke" Williams at wide receiver. Catching nine passes for 154 yards and a touchdown, Duke’s play between the hashes was a key to the first half success for the Tigers and will be a key moving forward in 2014.
“It opened up the middle of the field,” Johnson said. “People are now probably going to be keying on him more, but we still have Sammie (Coates) on the outside and Ricardo Louis, who run 4.1’s. If they decide to double-team Duke they’re going to have trouble stopping us deep. That’s why this offense is fun. Having Duke, Ricardo and Sammie all in the game at one time, that’s going to be hard to stop.”
A team who threw for just 2,422 yards in 14 games (173 yards per game) with 20 touchdowns, Auburn threw for 293 yards against the Razorbacks in the first opportunity to show improvement this season. With weapons all over the field and two quarterbacks that have improved their skills, Johnson said the sky’s the limit for Auburn’s passing game.
“What we did in the first half is what we’re going to do in every game,” Johnson said. “Even if I’m in or if Nick is in, all this would have happened the same way. He has become a better passer and we have all the confidence in the world that he’ll make all the throws I made. It’s going to be even better with him running, too. It’s going to be something to look forward to.”