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Nick Marshall makes the right calls in Auburn's offense
Oct. 11, 2014

Auburn's Nick Marshall accounted for four touchdowns against LSU last week

By Charles Goldberg
STARKVILLE, Miss.  The play goes in, but sometimes, well, you just never know what Auburn might do. Quarterback keeper? Handoff? A long pass? A short one?
Better ask Nick Marshall a second or two after the snap.
"We give Nick a lot of responsibility. He makes a lot of decision on runs and passes," says Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee.
That's something Mississippi State will have to consider when it faces Auburn at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Wade Davis Stadium. It's No. 2 Auburn versus No. 3 Mississippi State, and one of the reasons both have arrived with such lofty rankings is because of quarterback play.
Auburn has Marshall. Mississippi State has Dak Prescott. They've accounted for 31 touchdowns, not in their careers, but this season, a season that reaches the halfway point, at least regular-season-wise, Saturday.
Both are dual-threat quarterbacks, and have enough rushing and passing stats to back that up.
Marshall follows the plan as a run or pass play, but he sometimes he makes his decision on what's what after the snap. He doesn't freelance, but he does have freedom. Lashlee says Marshall has earned it.
 "A lot of quarterbacks make decisions on pass plays, but when it comes to a run, it’s pretty much called. With the way we read so much stuff, whether it’s zone-read or power-read or other things, there are a lot of decisions being made split-second after the snap on our quarterbacks," Lashlee said. "He does a really good job of making decisions, for the most part. I think that’s why he’s been such a threat doing what we’re doing because he just does a really good job and knows when to pull it or give it. We trust him."
Last year, Marshall became the third quarterback in Auburn history to have more than 2,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a single season. This year, he's second on the team in rushing, with 392 yards and leads in passing with 755 yards.
It was Marshall who flashed his good decision-making when he led Auburn past Mississippi State 24-20 last season when he threw the game-winning touchdown pass with 10 seconds left. That was Game 3. Auburn's offense got off to a slow start in the fourth game last season, then promptly scored 30, 62, 45, 45, 35 and, then, 55 in Game 10 in Knoxville.
"Probably around Tennessee last year we really started to feel like he had a really good grasp of the run aspect of things," Lashlee said. "We really started giving him more. We have trusted him fully since then. There were times he didn’t always make the right decision and sometimes he makes it right when he’s wrong, but he’s gotten better this year at not being greedy."

In last Saturday's 41-7 win over LSU, Lashlee said, "There were some times he probably could have pulled it and got 15 yards, but it was a little grey and you don’t risk any negative plays and maybe he only got 3."

Oh, Auburn has scored 45, 59, 20, 45 and 41 this season.
"In the passing game," Lashlee said, "there is no question that, this year, he’s much more comfortable. We have a good bit of confidence to call what we need to call knowing that if it’s not there he’s going to make the most of it. He’s not going to throw into bad situations. If he needs to scramble and ad-lib like he did a few times last night, he can. 
"He’s making good decisions like that, and as a coach you trust him more and more to call things to give him chances to make plays knowing that if it’s not there he’s going to make you right. I think that’s probably the biggest change to now."

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



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