Sept. 14, 2013
Will Nick Marshall open up Auburn's playbook? (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- You've got a 100-yard kickoff return and a 75-yard touchdown run from scrimmage. Defensive back Robenson Therezie intercepted two passes in the first game. Sammie Coates caught a 68-yard touchdown pass the last time out. The defense hasn't allowed a touchdown in six quarters.
But Auburn coach Gus Malzahn isn't ready to name the player who has carried the Tigers to their 2-0 start.
"It's not one guy. I think it's just a collection of all the guys together," he said. "The attitude and approach, That's probably what I'm most proud of.
"I've been pleased the way they've responded the first two weeks."
And how did they respond at last Sunday's practice, less than 24 hours after beating Arkansas State?
"'We've got to get better,'" is how Malzahn described it.
Auburn will try to do just that in its SEC opener against Mississippi State at 6 tonight in Jordan-Hare Stadium on ESPN2. The Tigers will be trying to snap a 10-game SEC losing streak.
This will be the 10th straight year Auburn has opened SEC play against the Bulldogs. It'll be the Bulldogs' sixth straight year opening conference play against the Tigers.
The focus tonight could be on the quarterbacks. Malzahn said he's slowly bringing junior college transfer Nick Marshall up to speed on his pace offense. Marshall has hit 20-of-36 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown. Mississippi State is hoping to ride veteran Tyler Russell, who hit 10-of-16 passes in an opening loss to Oklahoma State, but didn't play in last week's win over Alcorn State because of a concussion. Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen expects Russell to play tonight. Russell is fifth on Mississippi State's all-time passing charts with 4,699 yards.
If he's limited, State will turn to Dak Prescott, who was 12-of-19 for 174 yards and two touchdowns against Alcorn.
Malzahn hasn't put a percentage on how much of his offense he's given Marshall. There's probably a lot to add.
Malzahn said he's got to add more himself as more teams adopt his pace offense, giving defenses more opportunities to prepare over the course of a season.
"Each year you've got to stay ahead of the game," he said.
Malzahn said defenses prepared over the off-season " trying to stop what you're good at. You've got to be thinking ahead.
"Keep them off balance. That's a challenge."
Another stop along those lines will be tonight in Jordan-Hare.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine