No. 11 Auburn beats Florida Atlantic 45-10

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn didn’t miss a beat after quarterback Nick Marshall left the game with a shoulder injury.

Jeremy Johnson needed only one play to show he would keep adding to Auburn’s big lead.

Johnson threw two long touchdown passes to Sammie Coates, including one on his first snap after replacing Marshall, and No. 11 Auburn overwhelmed Florida Atlantic 45-10 on Saturday night.

Johnson, a freshman, took advantage of Coates’ speed on scoring passes of 36 and 67 yards. He threw the 36-yarder to Coates on his first play after replacing Marshall, who was taken to the locker room with a shoulder injury early in the second quarter.

“Sammie is a speed guy,” Johnson said. “He had one-on-one coverage, so I just gave him a chance, and he went and got it.”

Marshall returned to the Auburn sideline, but not the game, as Johnson added another touchdown pass to Coates later in the quarter.

“He was just motivating me,” Johnson said of Marshall. “We motivated each other. He told me to go out there and be a leader, so that’s what I did today.”

Auburn (7-1) avoided a letdown one week after a 45-41 win over then-No. 7 Texas A&M. The Tigers had 628 total yards, including 440 in a lopsided first half.

Florida Atlantic (2-6) trailed 38-0 before quarterback Jaquez Johnson scored on a 29-yard run with less than 1 minute remaining in the first half.

Jeremy Johnson completed 10 of 16 passes for 192 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He threw four touchdown passes in his first start, leading Auburn to a 62-3 win over Western Carolina on Oct. 12.

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn didn’t say if Marshall would be back as the starter when the Tigers play at Arkansas next week.

“If my number is called next week, then I’ll be ready,” Johnson said.

Auburn, which leads the SEC and ranks No. 8 in the nation in rushing offense, had 422 yards rushing. Cameron Artis-Payne led the Tigers with 93 yards rushing, including a 1-yard scoring run in the third quarter.

“They have a great running game,” Florida Atlantic coach Carl Pelini said. “We were not surprised at all. We knew they had a great game. They are strong and are very good up front. They have good speed on the outside. They beat you with their speed. You have to spread it out. They beat you inside. They are a good football team.”

Coates had three catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns.

“I think it was pretty big tonight for me to go out there and catch the ball and show everyone I can still bring a lot to the team,” Coates said. “Being a go-to guy, I think that we have a lot of guys who can make plays.”

Big plays on offense, defense and special teams helped Auburn build a big early lead.

Marshall had a 46-yard run to set up Tre Mason’s 8-yard touchdown run on Auburn’s first possession.

On the Owls’ fourth play, running back Jonathan Wallace’s fumble was recovered by Jermaine Whitehead. The turnover, forced by defensive end Dee Ford, set up Corey Grant’s 43-yard touchdown run one play later to give Auburn a 14-0 lead less than 4 minutes into the game.

Auburn’s special teams added a big play in the first quarter. Chris Davis returned a punt from near the Auburn goal line 70 yards to the Florida Atlantic 28. Marshall scored on a 10-yard run four plays later.

Marshall hurt his shoulder when sacked by defensive end Eugene Robinson on the second play of the second quarter. Auburn reported Marshall was held out for precautionary reasons.

The sack left Auburn with a third-and-13 play from the Florida Atlantic 36. Jeremy Johnson took the shotgun snap and passed to Coates, who was open on the Owls’ sideline.

Later in the second quarter, Coates got behind the Florida Atlantic defense in the middle of the field and, without breaking his stride, caught Johnson’s deep pass for the 67-yard touchdown. Owls cornerback Cre’von LeBlanc fell after his unsuccessful diving attempt at the ball.

Jaquez Johnson completed 9 of 20 passes for 133 yards as the Owls were held to 247 total yards. He led Florida Atlantic with 58 yards rushing.

Florida Atlantic linebacker Freedom Whitfield was taken to a local hospital after he was injured on a collision in the first quarter. Whitfield was back at the stadium by the end of the game. He wore a neck brace as he walked around the locker room following the game.

“It was great to see him walking back in that locker room, that is for sure,” Pelini said.

Whitfield led with his helmet on a big hit against Davis. Whitfield’s helmet appeared to hit Davis high on his chest. Part of Whitfield’s helmet may have hit the lower facemask of Davis.

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