Avoiding a fourth quarter meltdown was the key late in the game. After wide receiver Ricardo Louis completed a five-yard touchdown run to make it 31-10 with 10:04 left in the fourth quarter, the Tigers were outscored 14-0 and outgained 156-4 in total yards.
Jeremy Johnson went into the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic expected to be one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC and was labeled by some as a Heisman hopeful. However, junior had his struggles at the Georgia Dome. He forced some of his passes and rarely looked comfortable in the pocket. He hit 11-21 passes for 137 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.
“I was just trying to take the big plays too early in the game,” Johnson said. “That’s a mental mistake by me and I’m going to learn from it by watching film tomorrow. We just have to put this game behind us and get ready for the next game.”
Johnson said he felt like he was pressing, and that him doing so was uncharacteristic compared to how he normally plays.
“I know I could have performed way better,” he said. “I was trying to make big plays instead of just going through my progressions and making the right reads.”
With the passing game struggling, the offense got a boost from running back Peyton Barber, who took over after starter Roc Thomas was injured in the second quarter. Barber finished the game with 24 carries for 116 yards and one catch for 15 yards.
“He played tremendously,” said Johnson. “We already knew Peyton had the ability to do that. He carried the load today for us. He got the offense going. We feel good about him and also the other two backs. It was a big day for him.”
The quarterback is well aware that his performance was not up to his high standard, but said he is ready to move on and focus on the Jacksonville State game next weekend, Auburn’s home opener.
“We’ve got to move forward and learn from our mistakes,” the QB said. “We’re happy that we got the win. All we can do is learn from our mistakes and get ready for the next game.”