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Nick Marshall finds balance as Auburn's offense takes off
Nov. 2, 2014

Nick Marshall has his best passing game of the season for Auburn

By Charles Goldberg

OXFORD, Miss.  Ole Miss had to keep an eye on Nick Marshall. Just had to. The quarterback who makes Auburn's zone-read run game go, the quarterback who is Auburn's second-leading rusher, had to be stopped.

So Ole Miss occasionally played its safeties close to the line of scrimmage...and paid the price.

Marshall threw deep on multiple occasions and found his inside receivers open on shorter bubble throws Saturday night, and the end result was No. 3 Auburn's hard-fought 35-31 victory over No. 4 Ole Miss.

Marshall ran for 50 yards, but threw for a season-high 254 yards and two touchdowns, including some deep balls, such as a 57-yarder to Sammie Coates and a 41-yarder to Duke Williams. Auburn, a team known for its running, was just about as balanced as you could be, passing for 254 yards and rushing for 253 more.

Auburn's 507 yards were the most Ole Miss has allowed this year, by a long shot. The Rebels came in leading the nation in scoring defense, allowing only 10.5 points per game through eight games. Auburn scored 35. Ole Miss had allowed a national-low eight touchdowns. Auburn scored five more. Ole Miss hadn't allowed an opponent to score more than 20 points. Auburn had 28 in the third quarter.

Marshall opened things up this way: "Both of the safeties were playing down in the box worrying about me keeping the ball," Marshall explained. So instead completed passes to Coates and Williams, Quan Bray and Ricardo Louis and Marcus Davis.

"They were able to get the big one," Marshall said. 

"I just had confidence they'd make a catch."

So did Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, who saw his offense even things up as the Tigers won at the end.

"We just felt like not a lot of people had taken a lot of deep shots on them. We were just trying to get our guys on some one-on-one things, and let our guys make some plays," Malzahn said. "When we hit vertical balls down the field, it's usually a good thing."

But Auburn showed it could run, too. "To run the football in third quarter against that defense, I was very impressed with our guys up front, our running backs and our quarterback."

Ole Miss' defense came in with a reputation of being stingy.  That was OK with Marshall.

"They're a great defense all around. They play like their hair is on fire, just like we do," he said.

Auburn scored on its first possession, mixing the run and the pass to perfection. Then the Tigers were not as effective, not scoring again until Marshall hit Coates with a 57-yard TD pass late in the first half. Ole Miss would lead by 10 in the third quarter before Auburn got hopping again, scoring on a 2-yard Marshall run, a 17-yard pass to Davis and Cameron Artis-Payne scoring the game's final touchdown with 10:23 remaining.

"We had to pick the tempo up on the offensive side of the ball, and they'd be done. We were able to gas them a couple of times," Marshall said.

The Tigers' defense turned Ole Miss away from there with dramatic plays of its own. But it was Marshall was steadily led Auburn back in the second half.

"He doesn't get too high or too low. He's a champ. He's a great competitor," Malzahn said. "He made plays in the passing game deep down the field, really ran the read-zone extremely well."

Also over the weekend...
Auburn wins: The game story
Gus Malzahn: Another close win
Big play: Kris Frost saves the night
The polls: Tigers move up to No. 3

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


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