Preseason Heisman expectations quickly turned into disappointment for Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson after he was benched three games into the season. Many thought Johnson had made his last significant contribution when redshirt freshman Sean White took over, but Johnson got another opportunity to start for the injured White on Saturday.
The 6-foot-5 junior capitalized on his second chance leading the Tigers to an upset 26-10 victory over No. 19 Texas A&M.
“All those fans that were in the stands. … I played my heart out for them,” Johnson said, according to AL.com’s Wesley Sinor. “There’s a difference between real fans & fake fans.”
Johnson completed nine straight passes to begin the game and finished 13-of-17 for 132 yards and a touchdown. It was a polar-opposite performance that Auburn fans saw from Johnson in the first three weeks of the season. Johnson lacked rhythm in the offense and threw six interceptions in the first three games. He played sparingly in the following weeks as the offense improved under White.
Then, White’s knee injury limited him going into last week’s game against Ole Miss. White was healthy enough to play in the loss to the Rebels, but after he missed another week of practice, Johnson found out he would be replacing White as the starter for the Texas A&M game.
“He went through a storm early in the season and he hung in there, and that’s hard to do, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said after the game, according to Rivals.com’s Bryan Matthews. “He bounced back and led us to a big road victory in a very tough place to play.”
This win does not erase the rough start for Johnson, but Saturday’s victory moves the Tigers one win closer to bowl eligibility. The Tigers also got some much needed confidence heading into the final three games of the regular season — confidence that Johnson never lost.
“That’s how it was supposed to have been,” Johnson said. “My teammates believed in me whether I was sitting or starting. They’ve been telling me all week, and in the locker room before the game, ‘I believe in you.’ I just took that to heart.”