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'Amazing things' and big plays spark Auburn's offense
Sept. 28, 2014

Auburn's Nick Marshall ran for more than 100 yards and passed for 166 more against Louisiana Tech

Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala.  There was the scramble play, the one in which Nick Marshall escaped danger, circled back and threw the ball 53 yards in the air, right into Quan Bray's hands in the end zone. There was the play in which the ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage, traveled about 20 yards, where Duke Williams stuck out his left hand and made the touchdown catch.
"I always congratulate my teammates. They do amazing things for me," Marshall said after Saturday's 45-17 win over Louisiana Tech.
Auburn's offense played in bursts, driving late in the first half for a score that was coupled with a 76-yard punt return by Bray for a touchdown; and then scoring three touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Now, things get more interesting, with so many Top 25 games remaining against SEC opponents, starting with LSU next Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"We're about to enter a gauntlet in the season. We're polishing things up, keep getting better to see what happens," center Reese Dismukes.
Auburn's passing game had to come up big. Louisiana Tech was loading up to stop the run, and that's something most everybody tries. 
"We've got to take what teams are giving us," said running back Cameron Artis-Payne. "When Nick is having a great game, running the ball as well as throwing it, we knew that's what we needed to do to win."
The scramble touchdown to Bray was something to behold. Marshall rolled left, saw trouble and circled back to the middle of the field, throwing on a dead run to Bray more than 50 yards away. That emergency throw is somewhere in the playbook of Gus Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee.
"It was just something the defense was giving me," Marshall said. "Just like Coach Malzahn and Coach Lashlee told me, 'Trust my instincts.' That's what I was doing the whole game, trusting my instincts and making plays with my legs."
Marshall said he thought the play on the pass to Williams was over when the ball was tipped, saying he was already looking to the sidelines for the next play. The crowd told him to look down field, where Williams was making a one-handed touchdown catch.
"For us, it's like an every-day thing to see him make plays like that," Artis-Payne said.
Auburn, which led the nation in rushing last season, relied on something of a balanced offense against Louisiana Tech, something LSU will have to consider. All those other Top 25 SEC teams will have to plan for it, too.
Auburn ran a modest 70 plays Saturday, gaining 254 yards rushing and 219 passing. But passing may have won the day, considering four of Auburn's five offensive touchdowns came on throws. Bray caught two touchdown passes. Williams had one. So did C.J. Uzomah, from backup Jeremy Johnson.
When it was over, Artis-Payne had 116 yards and a touchdown rushing, taking his season totals to 468 yards rushing, which is fifth in the SEC, and five TDs. Marshall had 105 yards rushing and 166 passing. It was the second time in four games Artis-Payne and Marshall have each have rushed for more than 100 yards in the same game.
Bray's big day included three catches for 91 yards. Williams had two catches for 33. Six wide receivers/slot receivers/tight ends caught passes. Two running backs had catches.
The final stats were impressive enough, but Marshall says the beat goes on.
"You can never settle for less. You can always improve. That’s what we're going to focus on," he said.

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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