AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Nick Marshall threw four touchdowns in two quarters as Auburn’s first team routed its second team 58-3 on Saturday in a spring football game.
Marshall, the Tigers’ starter last season who occasionally struggled through the air, completed 13 of 22 passes for 236 yards. Wearing an orange non-contact jersey, Marshall kept only once on a zone-read play.
“(Marshall) is playing great right now,” wide receiver Sammie Coates said. “He is throwing the ball down the field and reading right. If he keeps moving in the right direction we are going to get better behind him.”
“I think the big thing (in Marshall’s improvement) is just being more comfortable,” Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn said. “You can see him in the pocket . you can tell he’s really improved.”
Backup Jeremy Johnson had less success with the second-team offense in the first half before moving to the first-team offense in the second. Combined, he was 9-of-21 for 130 yards and a 38-yard touchdown pass to Tony Stevens. Despite those struggles, Malzahn was still pleased with the promising sophomore.
“Jeremy’s had an excellent spring,” Malzahn said. “(Offensive coordinator Rhett) Lashlee’s given him about 25 percent of the snaps with our first group. We feel like he could play for most teams in the country.”
Auburn’s receiving corps also was impressive. Coates made a one-handed touchdown catch, D’haquille Williams debuted with five catches for 88 yards and a touchdown while Quan Bray caught two TD passes. Stevens caught two touchdown passes in the second half.
“We have some veteran guys (at wide receiver) that have some experience that understand our offense,” Malzahn said. “I feel like that group’s improved and of course you add (Williams) to it and some of those younger guys we have some depth there.”
“It’s going to be a really scary sight to see,” Marshall said, referring to the Tigers’ playmakers at wide receiver. “We’re throwing the football down the field to take some pressure off our running game, and we know we can run the ball.”
Corey Grant gained 128 yards on just five carries, including a 54-yard touchdown run, and Cameron Artis-Payne had 97 yards on 12 carries for the defending SEC Champions.
An announced crowd of 70,405 fans braved an unseasonably chilly day to cram into Jordan-Hare Stadium, which still bore the scars of the wild celebration following the Tigers’ Iron Bowl victory over Alabama in November.