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Nick Marshall's passing game maturing at Auburn
Sept. 29, 2014

Auburn's Nick Marshall following the playbook, winning games

By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala.  Nick Marshall rolled left and found trouble, then circled back to the middle of the field and found Quan Bray in the end zone.
His long pass, thrown on the run, helped Auburn beat Louisiana Tech 45-17 over the weekend, and is part of the momentum carrying the No. 5 Tigers into Saturday's home game against No. 15 LSU.
You can also chalk it up to an Auburn quarterback who is maturing on the field, but who also has the freedom to turn nothing into something. 
Like that 44-yard touchdown pass to Bray.
Marshall may have winged it a bit on that play, but offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee says his quarterback has still shown he's willing to wait for his receivers to come free rather than taking off on the run.
The numbers Saturday showed that. Marshall ran for more than 105 yards and passed for 166 and three touchdowns. He ran for 1,000 yards and passed for 2,000 yards last year. But his play this year is different, Lashlee said.
"He's proven that he's matured to the point that he's going to look to be a passer first," Lashlee said. "He's not going to be a guy that just drops back and tries to take off running. He's trying to throw the ball first, and if he goes through his progressions and it's not there, he needs to feel confident to let his instincts take over and go make plays. 
"Or, if protection breaks down, feel confident to let his instincts take over, which he did a couple times yesterday. I think most of the time when he did, it was positive for us with a big long run and a scramble touchdown.
"I think he's to the point where he plays within the system. We can trust him. He makes good decisions. There were a couple of times yesterday we put him in a bad play and last year he would have probably thrown it and it might have been intercepted. He pulled it down and he ends up putting Sammie (Coates) on the back side  not even in the route. He was not even a secondary option. He flips back, hits Sammie and gets a completion in a two-minute drive. 
"There was another time that wasn't there, he pulled it down, scrambled and made a play. It's just the more reps you get, the more you trust him. But I want him to feel confident to use his God-given ability as well. I thought he did a good job of that."
Lashlee also said…
• The offense was "cleaner" than in the previous game, a 20-14 win over Kansas State.
• Auburn will continue to look at linebacker Cameron Toney at H-back.
"We're just in the early stages trying to see if it's a fit or not. I wouldn't read too much into it yet. Is it a situation where it could help our team this year or not and he's a smart kid, he's a tough kid, so he's done well so far."
Lashlee said C.J. Uzomah and Brandon Fulse will continue to man that position.
"But we're about to hit that grind where seven of the next eight games are SEC opponents. Physically, you never know what's going to happen, so you're always trying to stay a step ahead of the game."
• Quan Bray's three-touchdown day was impressive.
"Those seniors, there's usually a little more urgency. It's their last chance. He's our only senior receiver. He had those expectations. He played great. I thought it was one of the best all-around games he's had. Obviously the two touchdown catches were great, but he's become a great punt returner for us, which is huge. It really lifted our team. But he played great all-around. It wasn't like he just had three great plays. He graded out and played well the whole game and that's what we need from him because he's a pretty explosive player."

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



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