Auburn starting quarterback Jeremy Johnson didn’t shy away from critiquing his own performance Saturday.
After his team held on to beat Louisville 31-24 in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome, the junior owned up to his mistakes, and shouldered the blame for the Tigers’ offensive struggles.
Johnson threw three interceptions, and finished the game only 11 of 21 for 137 yards with two total touchdowns (one rushing, one passing). He is the first quarterback under coach Gus Malzahn to throw three interceptions in a single game.
“I pretty much won’t make those mistakes again,” Johnson vowed.
Johnson threw two of the interceptions in the first half on plays he was trying to find one of his receivers down field.
His first interception came late in the first quarter when he was trying to find Marcus Davis inside the 30-yard line on a third and 12. Josh Harvey-Clemons read the play the entire way, and had no problem getting in front of Davis,
Early in the second quarter, Harvey-Clemons picked up a second interception after Johnson launched a pass 50-plus yards down field into triple coverage.
“It just comes from trying to take a big shot too early in the game,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s final interception came in the third quarter on a play where Louisville’s line flushed him out of the pocket. He tried to hit Peyton Barber down the sideline at midfield, but Trumaine Washington came up with it.
“I thought it was pressure,” Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said, of Johnson’s struggles. “When you get pressure on a quarterback, especially a young quarterback things change, and decision-making becomes harder.”
While Johnson is a junior, Saturday was only his third career start. He smiled as a reporter asked him what lessoned he learned in the hard-fought win.
“Takes what the defense gives me,” Johnson said.
In coach Malzahn’s post-game press conference, he expressed confidence in his quarterback.
“He’s going to be fine,” Malzahn said. “He made some very good plays to help us win, especially down the stretch. The third down and, what 13 or 12 to Duke (Williams), he’s going to be fine.”
The completion to Williams was one of two first down throws Johnson made on a 12-play, 72-yard drive that ended with an 8-yard touchdown run from Ricardo Louis. The score put Auburn up 31-10 with 10:04 to go in the game.
Johnson’s most impressive throw of the game was actually called back on one of Auburn’s five holding penalties.
He dropped a beautifully thrown 56-yard missile into Jason Smith as he crossed into the end zone, but the play was wiped out with a holding call on sophomore guard Braden Smith.
“I’m just happy that we got the win,” Johnson said. “All I can do is get ready for the next game and put this game behind me, learn from my mistakes.”