Jeremy Johnson (above) runs the football vs. Memphis.
Birmingham, Ala.--Although he didn’t get the start in Auburn's 31-10 Birmingham Bowl victory over Memphis, junior Jeremy Johnson made the most of his limited time on the artificial turf at Legion Field on Wednesday.
On his first play at quarterback in the third quarter, he threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jason Smith that put Auburn ahead for good at 17-10.
In the fourth quarter Johnson scored on a five-yard quarterback draw to make the score 24-10 and he was in the game when Auburn added an insurance touchdown on a four-yard run by Jovon Robinson.
“He didn’t start the game, but he really handled himself like a champ,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said. “When he came into the game it gave us great momentum. He threw a touchdown pass and came back and ran for another.
“Overall he did a very good job and I’m proud of him,” Malzahn added. “He gave us momentum in the second half and there is no doubt about that.”
After the game, Johnson was quick to deny rumors that he may transfer to another school for more playing time. “I’m coming back,” he stated.
However, Johnson will have to compete with Sean White, who started the bowl game, along with redshirt Tyler Queen and two incoming QBs, including early enrollee John Franklin III.
“I’m not worrying about it,” Johnson said. “All I can do is work on myself. I’m a competitor. I’m going to compete and I’ve got faith in myself to be the starting quarterback.”
After playing in his final game, wide receiver Melvin Ray said he was not only excited to go out a winner, he was happy to see his friend, Johnson, have a strong performance at quarterback. “Since it was my last time getting to play with him, it definitely felt good to see him come back and just have a good game. It just makes everything better about leaving.”
Ray also praised the efforts of the defense, saying, “They made a lot of plays. We (the offensive players) definitely shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times early in the game, but they kept fighting and played an amazing game. Coach Thompson called a great game. They definitely gave us a lot of momentum.”
Lance Thompson coordinated the defense for the bowl game as the Tigers did not allow high-scoring Memphis to score an offensive touchdown.
Jason Smith, who was on the receiving end of Johnson’s touchdown pass, agreed with Ray that the win at Legion Field was a great way to finish the season.
“It felt good just to be a part of this team,” the sophomore wideout said. “With all the up’s and down’s we’ve been through, it just felt good achieving our goal and ending the season with a win. At the end of the day, it felt good just to get a win. And, I’ll take that any day.”