Sept. 15, 2013
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - After three games last season, Auburn's football team had been outscored 17-6 in the fourth quarter. After six games, the Tigers had been outscored 48-6 in the fourth quarter as they staggered toward a 3-9 finish. They would not score a fourth-quarter touchdown until the ninth game of the season against New Mexico State.
Much has changed.
After Saturday night's 24-20 victory over Mississippi State, the Tigers are 3-0 in Gus Malzahn's first season as head coach. And they have won the fourth quarter 20-0. Mississippi State's touchdown on the first possession of the third quarter was the only one the Tigers have given up this season in the second half.
They outscored Washington State 3-0 in the fourth quarter in a 31-24 victory and outscored Arkansas State 10-0 in a 38-9 victory. Saturday, junior quarterback Nick Marshall led an 88-yard drive in the final 1:56, throwing an 11-yard pass to C.J. Uzomah for the winning touchdown with 10 seconds left.
Mississippi State converted four of its first five third downs but was 0-for-5 in the fourth quarter and converted just one of its last 10.
Rodney Garner, Auburn's defensive line coach and associate head coach, said it's a message Tiger players hear every day.
"We always talk about we want to finish in the fourth quarter," Garner said. "We didn't play very well early, but I was proud of the resilience they showed to keep fighting and keep clawing and find a way to win. We thought last year they found a way to lose so many times. It was good to see them just keep fighting and keep believing in one another and keep fighting for the brother beside them."
Malzahn said he saw no panic, no despair in the eyes of his players, even when Mississippi State led 20-17 deep into the fourth quarter.
"It was really something," Malzahn said. "There was a lot of adversity. I was really proud of the way our guys responded on the sideline. There wasn't any doom and gloom. They had bright eyes. They kept believing and found a way to do it."
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: