Jacksonville State almost took down mighty Auburn (No. 6 before this game) in Week 2, losing by a score of 27-20. Quarterback Jeremy Johnson struggled throughout most of the game, and the Tigers were dominated at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball up until the very end of the contest.
After Auburn’s narrow escape against Louisville in Week 1, there is no doubt the Tigers are in deep trouble heading into the meat-and-potatoes portion of their schedule. Up next in Week 3 looms LSU in Death Valley, followed by another tough matchup at home against Mississippi State in Week 4.
Johnson was abysmal in Week 1 against the Cardinals, and his struggles carried over into this contest. He did, however, manage to come up huge late in the fourth quarter with a touchdown strike to Melvin Ray to tie the game 20-20.
He finished the game completing 21-of-32 passes for 236 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Through two games, the junior quarterback has turned the ball over five times through the air while managing just three touchdowns.
It’s awfully strange seeing a Gus Malzahn-coached team struggle this badly on offense.
It’s is all the more stunning considering the exceedingly high expectations that were placed on Johnson before the season. He was considered one of the top players to compete for the 2015 Heisman Trophy, yet that hype is just about dead and buried after two weeks.
While watching Johnson’s mediocre performance during Saturday’s narrow victory, Travis Haney of ESPN.com reminisced about a comment Malzahn made about his quarterback and the hype surrounding him before the season.
“Yeah, you do wonder if it’s fair to him,” Malzahn said. “We feel great about him, but he still hasn’t started a season yet. We’re glad that he is our quarterback, though. It’s a learning experience for him, but he isn’t your normal first-year starting quarterback. He’s been in a lot of scenarios.”
Johnson isn’t the only player to blame for Auburn’s putrid performance, either. Running back Roc Thomas fumbled the ball with just 3:06 remaining in the fourth quarter as Auburn was driving to attempt tying the game.
The entire team failed to match Jacksonville State’s intensity. From the opening whistle until the final snap of the fourth quarter, the Tigers got dominated. Thankfully they were able to pull out the overtime victory in front of the home crowd.
That said, there’s no doubt Auburn is in deep trouble unless the offense experiences a revival of epic proportions in the weeks to come.