AUBURN | I've been writing about Auburn football for a long time.
My first columns at AuburnSports.com were for the 2001 season and I'd been at it in one form or another for at least 15 years before then. After all that time, I must confess: Writing about "checkbook wins" like Saturday's 62-3 romp over Western Carolina gets harder every season.
It's not the Catamounts' fault. They did what they were supposed to do by showing up, playing their best and collecting a payoff that will fund most of their athletic department for the next year. And as easy as it would be to go off on Auburn for scheduling a cupcake, it's a pretty good argument that AU should quit playing these teams just as soon as everybody else in the BCS conferences (what are we going to call them next year, anyway?) stops doing the same thing for two to four games a year.
Most of the time, there's just nothing meaningful to say about one of these games. The home team beats the living tar out of the squad from what I like to call The Homecoming Opponents' Conference and moves on.
Yes, there are occasional exceptions. Appalachian State nearly gave Tommy Tuberville a black eye that never would have healed, nearly a decade before finally administering that shiner to Michigan, but most of the time, we get what we got Saturday. Which is to say, a game that only a truly dedicated fan sat through until the clock ran out.
There was, of course, one factor that made this cupcake feast stand out from most of the others: The debut of freshman quarterback Jeremy Johnson, who was stripped of his redshirt and pressed into service in the stead of injured starter Nick Marshall.
Johnson's first college touchdown looked like the work of a veteran. He rolled out of the pocket inside the 10, he patiently waited for receivers to come open, then hit fullback Jay Prosch in the end zone with a precision dart. "Frosh-to-Prosch" was an easy six points, putting the Tigers up 14-0.
A few series later, Johnson looked like, well, a freshman, when under-throwing a deep ball to a covered Ricardo Louis yielded his first career interception. Against such marginal competition, it was far from a critical error (Auburn scored touchdowns on every other possession with Johnson in the game), but the pick was a healthy reminder for Johnson -- and for Auburn fans -- that for all his poise and obvious talent, he's still about four months removed from high school. The next time he takes a snap in a game, Johnson will be facing guys who are four months away from the NFL.
...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now for a FREE Trial