Oct. 6, 2013
Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee likes Nick Marshall's play (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. – Rhett Lashlee acknowledges the passing yards weren't there, but he says Nick Marshall probably had his best game as Auburn's quarterback in Saturday's 30-22 win over Ole Miss.
"Throwing, he's had a better day," Lashlee said Sunday. But, said the offensive coordinator, Marshall was better in Game 5 than the first four.
The next step for Marshall is struggling Western Carolina at 1 p.m. Saturday at homecoming in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Marshall's improvement against Ole Miss required a sudden change in strategy. The Tigers, known for their hurry-up offense, occasionally tried to slow things down in an effort to play keep-away from Ole Miss. Alas, it was the Rebels doing that. Ole Miss ran 51 plays in the first half to Auburn's 27, and the Rebels had an 89-65 advantage by game's end.
Not enough points, though, after Marshall ran for a career-high 140 yards Saturday weeks after throwing for a career-high 339 yards.
"Going in, the plan was definitely to throw the football," Lashlee said. "We're up 13-3 at the end of the first quarter and we've been on the field three minutes. At that point we said, 'Man, our defense is playing good. But the way their tempo is and the way our tempo is, we've got to help them.
"We did make a concerted effort in the second quarter to run the football and when we started having success, you just kind of stuck with it."
The game dictated some change, but Auburn is still looking for a quick tempo.
"Once you get that, you can get a defense in disarray," Lashlee said. "That is the tempo we want and the common denominator is we hit an explosive pass."
This coaching staff is willing to adapt. Consider Marshall's passing numbers in the first five games: 99, 147, 339, 224, 93. Consider his rushing numbers: 27, 53, 22, 46 and 140.
They've added up to a 4-1 start for the Tigers. That's more wins than last year. And now a 1-5 Western Carolina team may allow the Tigers to rest the injured, and regroup in general, which may come in handy considering Auburn's next three SEC games are at Texas A&M, Arkansas and Tennessee. A home game against Florida Atlantic falls in that run, but, through it all, Lashlee wants the offense to stay sharp no matter if the opponent is Western Carolina or an SEC rival.
"I'm more concerned with us playing well," Lashlee said. "I want us to be crisp, not go out and slop around and have penalties.
"There are some guys like a Tony Stevens that you'd like to get more action. Marcus Davis is already playing more. I think a guy like an Avery Young, maybe try to get him more meaningful reps, too. But we're going into this game like we do any other game. We're going to go with the guys that we've got. We're getting healthy in most spots."
Video: Rhett Lashlee looks at Auburn's offense:
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine