AUBURN, Ala. -- The Auburn coaches probably would’ve been happy had quarterback Nick Marshall come out in the second quarter -- if it meant they were up big. Instead, Marshall came out early because of a shoulder injury. The Tigers still cruised past Florida Atlantic 45-10, but the win was overshadowed by their quarterback’s early departure.
The injury occurred early in the second quarter when Marshall was sacked -- although he took a shot to the same shoulder prior to that. He was slow to get up, and coach Gus Malzahn said he was grimacing on the field when they went to get him.
Marshall came out for the next play before heading to the locker room. He later returned to the sideline wearing a jacket, and it was announced that he would not return for “precautionary measures.” He completed his only pass attempt of the and ran the ball six times for 73 yards and a touchdown.
Malzahn did not give an update on his status after the game.
The injury brought on freshman signal-caller Jeremy Johnson, who made the most of his opportunity. On his first play, he connected with Sammie Coates for 36 yards and a touchdown. Johnson made his debut two weeks ago against Western Carolina when Marshall sat out with a knee injury.
“Coach Malzahn always tells me to prepare as the starter, stay focused like the starter, so really that’s all I did throughout the week and throughout the game,” Johnson said. “I just came in and executed.”
Johnson wound up taking the majority of snaps at quarterback for Auburn and finished 10 of 16 for 192 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He also rushed for 21 yards but said that’s an area he still needs to work on.
“We’re confident in Jeremy, and Jeremy is a very good quarterback,” Malzahn said. “He’s got some good experience now, but we’ll see.
“[Jeremy] is a very good runner in his own right. He’s got long arms and does a good job. It really doesn’t change that much from the play-caller standpoint. Obviously, Nick is electric with the ball, but Jeremy is not too far behind.”
Coates, who finished with 113 yards receiving and two touchdowns, said he has confidence in both quarterbacks. The sophomore is quickly emerging as Auburn’s deep threat.
“I don’t think there’s a big difference,” he said. “I think both of them have a strong arm. They’ve got good timing. I like catching [passes] from both of them.”
After the game, the players were optimistic about Marshall’s condition. Still, there’s a level of uncertainty surrounding the injury, and there’s a chance Johnson will get the start next weekend when Auburn travels to Arkansas.
Will he be ready?
“If my number is called, then yes sir I’ll be ready,” Johnson said.
“The team is going to be fine. Like I said, Coach Malzahn keeps me well prepared. He makes me prepare as a starter so if I have to go in and start, it’s good. But hopefully Nick will be back because he’s the starter, and he’s doing a really good job leading this team.”
Marshall played arguably his best game of the season last week against Texas A&M, leading his team to an upset over a top-10 team.