Oct. 6, 2013
Ole Miss can't catch Auburn's Nick Marshall on this touchdown run (Anthony Hall photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. – The guy who received a crash course in Gus Malzahn's offense in preseason camp is showing he's getting the handle on things.
Versatile quarterback Nick Marshall led Auburn in rushing, and passing, and helped the Tigers to an early lead and a 30-22 win over Ole Miss on Saturday night.
Marshall had a team-best 140 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries, and hit 11-of-17 passes for 93 more yards.
"I feel way more comfortable now," Marshall said. "I've settled into the offense now. I can really just play to my ability."
His ability Saturday night revolved around making the right decision on the read option. When he read it correctly, he kept the ball and put up big yards.
"I really knew what was coming a majority of the time because I watched film with Coach," Marshall said. "I was prepared for what they had coming."
Malzahn noticed that, too.
"I think he is really talented with the read-option," he said. "There’s a lot of pressure on defenses when we can execute it. There was some pretty good blocking at the point of attack, and on a lot of those runs too."
Last week's film work with Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee revealed this: "They like to crash the ends a lot and blitz, and I was able to keep it for good yards."
In the last few weeks he's had Auburn's highest passing total in a game since 2005, and now the most yards rushing for a quarterback since Cam Newton's comet left town. He made it to 140 against Ole Miss despite hurting his knee in the second half. He didn't seem concerned about that after the game and said he'd be fine with treatment.
Tre Mason's 77 yards were the most by a running back against Ole Miss. But the rushing title this night belonged to Marshall.
"He played great," Mason said. "He showed what he could do on his feet. He's just showing he can be very versatile, throwing the ball, running. It's great to have that.
"He's getting comfortable back there. When he gets pressure, he doesn't panic. He just makes the play on his feet."
A sore knee or no, Malzahn said Marshall "showed a lot of toughness, and made a big throw to Tre Mason down there in the third quarter. That play led to a touchdown, and he did what it took to help us win."
Auburn went conservative in the second half, though Marshall's passing stayed steady with nine throws in the first half and eight in the second half.
"Tonight when we were playing with tempo, we were playing better," Malzahn said. "When we got the lead, we kind of slowed things down, and we’re not at our best when we’re slowing things down. But it was the right thing to do. We’ll continue to work on that."
But before that, as Auburn built a 27-9 lead, "we were playing fast, and that’s who we are. We have to do a better job of that, we’ve got to be more consistent getting first downs, especially in that third and fourth quarter."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine