Florida Atlantic overpowered by Auburn, 45-10

A slow start ruined Florida Atlantic’s hopes of an upset against

Auburn.

Now the Owls have to hope for a strong finish to preserve their

slim bowl hopes.

Florida Atlantic was overwhelmed early as No. 11 Auburn scored

the first 38 points and rolled to a 45-10 win over the Owls on

Saturday night.

”We came out slower than we usually come out,” said cornerback

Cre’von LeBlanc. ”We didn’t come out fast enough, and they came

out ready to play.”

The Owls (2-6), who play Tulane next week, must win their last

four regular-season games to become bowl-eligible.

Even after the lopsided loss to Auburn, Florida Atlanta coach

Carl Pelini said a bowl bid remains a viable goal.

”We are capable of doing it,” Pelini said. ”I have been

saying that all year. We are very capable of doing that as a

football team, and that is what our goal is.”

Jeremy Johnson replaced injured Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall

early in the second quarter and threw two long touchdown passes to

Sammie Coates, including one on his first snap.

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.

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 trailed 38-0 before quarterback Jaquez Johnson

scored on a 29-yard run with less than 1 minute remaining in the

first half. Mitch Anderson added a 31-yard field goal in the third

quarter.

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,” 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.”

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

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.

Whitfield left the field on a cart, strapped to a stretcher.

”It shocked a lot of us because Freedom is like a brother to

this whole organization,” LeBlanc said. ”To see one of our

brothers go down like that, it could be anybody.”

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 provided no update on Marshall’s injury

after the game.

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.