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Auburn went to backup quarterback John Franklin III in the fourth quarter of a 29-16 loss to Texas A&M Saturday night at Jordan-Hare stadium.
The Tigers trailed 22-10 when Franklin stepped on the field relieving Sean White of the quarterbacking duties. The coaching staff hoped the speedy junior college transfer could jumpstart an offense that punted on all four of its third quarter possessions.
“We were honest with him,” Malzahn said of benching White. “Man, we need a shot in the arm. We are going to give John a shot. That’s all you can be, just honest with him and tell him what you’re going to do.”
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Auburn’s offense moved the ball a little better with Franklin orchestrating two extended drives into the red zone.
Franklin was 4 of 8 for 37 yards and ran the ball nine times for 59 yards.
“I thought he created some things in the passing game when things broke down and made a couple good throws, couple zone-read runs,” Malzahn said. “I thought he gave us a spark.”
While Malzahn was happy to praise Franklin’s performance, he wasn’t ready to open the door for a change at quarterback. The coaches will evaluate the film and “talk about things next week.”
Malzahn defended White’s performance when asked if the quarterback failed to make adjustments after going 6 for 6 to start the game. The sophomore ended up 18 for 27 with 126 yards.
“Here’s what I’ll say, it wasn’t all Sean,” Malzahn said. “There was some stuff around him that wasn’t good. We had some drops, y’all saw the drops, so it’s not that we just felt like, ‘Sean, you’re not doing a good job,’ it was more of lets get John in there and see if we can get a spark.”
According to multiple offensive players, the first thing White did after Malzahn delivered the news was seek out Franklin to help the backup get ready.
“Sean was trying to help everybody on the team, trying to help everyone on the offense do their job” Auburn offensive lineman Alex Kozan said. “He was talking to John about things he saw the defense doing. Sean has a great attitude. He’s a great teammate.”
Kozan also backed up Malzahn’s assessment that White shouldn’t take all the blame for Auburn’s offensive woes.
“The thing I noticed on a lot of our drives is we would just shoot ourselves in the foot,” Kozan said. “Get a penalty here, a delay of game, someone misses a block there, makes the wrong read. It’s not on any one guy.”
Franklin has appeared in all three of Auburn’s games this season. He was part of a since abandoned three-man rotation at quarterback in week one then got into a 51-14 win over Arkansas St. last week with the game well in held.
The loss dropped White’s record as a starter to 4-5.
Neither of Auburn’s quarterback was made available to talk to the media after the game.