Sep 6, 2013
Auburn's Nick Marshall finds time, thanks to Chad Slade, on the left, and Reese Dismukes (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — They still talk of trying to run at least 80 plays a game, but sometimes it takes a bit longer to get a feel for the offense, like this year; and sometimes they score just too darn fast, like when winning a national championship.
Auburn's Gus Malzahn would like to take control with at least 80 plays a game, and maybe that will come this season when quarterback Nick Marshall gains more control of the playbook that will surely open up.
"With our pace plays, I think he’ll get a little more comfortable in that situation," says tight end C.J. Uzomah.
Pace has a lot to do with Malzahn's hurry-up mentality, not so much about the number of plays. Already a subtle change may have taken place at halftime of last Saturday's 31-24 win over Washington State.
"I think just the adjustments we made at halftime, coaches coming in and telling us, ‘This is what they’re doing on defense, this is what we need to do. These are the plays we’re going to run to open up these plays,'" Uzomah remembers. "Obviously, we watched film and had an idea what they were generally going to do, but once we get out there and have a feel for the game it actually helps a whole lot."
Auburn ran 65 plays in the win. The Tigers will be looking for more in Saturday's 6:30 game against Arkansas State in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Is there a magic number? Maybe not. Malzahn, as Auburn's offensive coordinator and now head coach, has run 80 or more plays four times and won them all. He's 5-3 when running 59 or fewer plays. He's been in the 60s 18 times. The national championship season? Ran between 61-68 plays six times. Ran 54 plays once. Hit the 80s once. Won them all.
This season, Auburn figures to open things up as it gives quarterback Nick Marshall more responsibilities.
"I look back at last year, our first game we didn't have many plays. The second game, we really spiked. Hopefully, we can get that same kind of improvement," said offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee.
Game 1 was a slow go, but that was by design.
"Their defense, what they do, is so, I guess, scattered, that Coach Malzahn really wanted to get in a good play," Uzomah said. "It being Nick's first game and our first game, he wanted to make sure that we had the best play for their defense. It was really hard to tell what they were doing just because they were standing out there, kind of all over the place. He wanted to slow it down a little bit, have us slow down and relax a little bit, and I think that helped out a lot."
"It was simplified a little bit, just because it's the first game. So we're just trying to make sure that we executed the plays that — our base plays — and executed those really well. We'll probably open up a little bit these next few weeks. But other than that, that was pretty much our base stuff."
Arkansas State will be more traditional defensively than Washington State.
"We have a more general idea of what they're going to do. I think everyone can expect more pace more pace this upcoming game," Uzomah said.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: