Oct. 8, 2014
Auburn's Nick Marshall will be looking to beat Mississippi State after helping the Tigers beat LSU last Saturday
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — When Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall is creating magic, when he's scrambling about looking for someone to throw to, offensive lineman Shon Coleman knows he has a simple job.
"Pretty much," Coleman said, "we've just got to find somebody to hit because if we get some guys on the ground he'll make a play."
Marshall has done it this year, like against Louisiana Tech when he rolled left, circled back and found Quan Bray for a 44-yard touchdown pass. That's Exhibit A. He's pretty much gone through the alphabet in his season-and-a-half at Auburn.
He's only the third quarterback in Auburn history to have more than 2,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards.
"You see a quarterback that can do that and still make plays, it helps us out and helps him out," said receiver Sammie Coates. "He can still make plays when he’s outside of the pocket running around, throwing the ball 65 yards down the field. It keeps our offense balanced and keeps defenses on their toes."
Then there's the Marshall who spotted single coverage last Saturday and threw a perfect 56-yard touchdown pass to Coates, the first of his two touchdown catches in a 41-7 win over LSU.
Marshall's first big splash came in Game 3 last year when he threw the game-winning touchdown to C.J. Uzomah with 10 seconds left to beat Mississippi State 24-20. His 339 passing yards in that game is still his career best and… well, look here, Marshall and Auburn have a rematch with Mississippi State at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Starkville in one of the biggest games in Bulldogs' history. Everybody on TV is in a tizzy because it's No, 2 Auburn against No. 3 Mississippi State.
Nick Marshall won't be bothered by that, say his teammates.
"I don’t think Nick pays attention to what's going on outside of Auburn," Coates said. "He's one of those guys that brings us up. He doesn’t worry about the outside world. He just comes out there ready to play."
Marshall leads SEC quarterbacks in rushing with 392 yards. Teammate Jeremy Johnson leads the SEC in passing efficiency.
This will be Marshall's 19th start at Auburn, his 10th against a Top 25 team. Marshall can take his trip to Starkville in stride after last year beating No. 1 Alabama (remember, he threw the game-tying touchdown pass with 32 seconds left in that one), winning the SEC title game and playing for the BCS championship last year.
But it all seemed to take off against Mississippi State.
"I look back to the last game of with him throwing for 200-plus, rushing for 100-plus and him really having that complete game," Uzomah said. "You look back at games like that and him being able to throw the ball in a two-minute situation, him going back last year to the Tennessee game where he rushed for 200-plus, him being able to make plays happen on the ground and then last week, him being able to extend the plays — throw it up to Sammie and do the things he can do in open space is something that definitely gives us confidence as an offense, knowing that even when a play busts, he has the opportunity to pick up a big gain or possibly score.
"When it comes down to crunch time, when it comes down to big games, he's going to perform. He's going to leave his all on the field and give his best effort and give his best game."
Marshall's touchdown pass beat Mississippi State, sure enough, but coach Gus Malzahn said his quarterback was "still learning the offense when we played them last year."
Now, Marshall says, he's "way better than I was last year" passing.
"Nick, personally, is light years ahead of where he was at," Malzahn said.
Now, Coates said, Marshall is "doing a great job letting the coach know what we can run and what we can’t run. That’s really helping the offense and helping Malzahn and Coach Rhett a whole lot.
"The way he’s playing right now, it’s unbelievable how much he’s come on along since last year just coming into the system."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: