Nov. 4, 2013
Auburn's Nick Marshall chose his passes carefully, hitting 7-of-8 attempts at Arkansas (AP photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn has thrown the fewest passes and has the fewest catches in the SEC.
"The pass will come when it comes," says receiver Sammie Coates. "Nobody complains."
Auburn threw it just nine times at Arkansas, the fewest since a Georgia game in 1984, and won 35-17 behind Tre Mason's 168-yard, four-touchdown rushing performance, a performance that earned him SEC offensive player of the week honors.
Coates showed up, too, with three catches 118 yards, including an 88-yard touchdown pass from Nick Marshall. He now leads the nation, averaging 26.6 yards per catch. The only other wide or slot receiver who caught passes was Ricardo Louis, who had three for 22 yards. Running back Corey Grant caught two passes for nine yards.
That's was it.
"We did a good job running the ball, the line did a great job blocking and Tre Mason ran the ball hard," Coates said.
Auburn had more passing in the playbook, but with Marshall nursing a sore shoulder, and the Tigers enjoying early success running, passing was put on the backburner. After Coates' TD catch made it 28-3 midway in the third quarter, the Tigers ran clock, threw only two more times and headed home with the SEC's best running game intact. Next up: at Tennessee on Saturday.
Despite the stats, offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee says the Tigers like to pass.
"We throw the ball like crazy in practice," he said. "I make it very clear -- we have no problem throwing it. We've got belief in both of our guys to throw it. And to catch it.
"We've had different receivers from Quan Bray to Ricardo Louis to Trovon Reed to Marcus Davis step up in games. I've got no problem throwing it to people other than Sammie. He just happens to be a guy who is leading the country in yards per catch.
"When he gets singled up, he's pretty good."
As far as Arkansas, "it was a weird game. To only attempt nine passes is not normal for anybody. It was kind of weird the way it unfolded.
"We've got plenty of what we would call bullets, or plays where we can throw the football and make plays other than just bubble screens. We've got plenty of things we can do each week. Just trust me -- we know it's going to happen, a game where we're going to have a game where we have to win the game throwing the football. Like we did against Mississippi State. When it happens, I feel confident that out guys are going to be able to do it."
Lashlee said the Arkansas game turned into a physical game, as expected.
"They like to run it, we obviously like to run it," he said. "It was an interesting game the way it unfolded because we're up 14-3 with 20 plays and the next thing we're up 28-3 and we hadn't had to throw it that much. They knew we were going to run it, but we were being successful doing that, and I thought our guys did a really good job of being the more physical team up front again this week, which was important for us.
"At that point, there was just no need to air it out. We had plenty of things we felt good about in the passing game. Even looking back you're thinking, 'Why not?' You don't want to do anything to give them momentum. And at that point we'd been running the ball effectively, hadn't really been stopped much unless we were stopping ourselves. So, like I said, when you're being successful with it, you don't want to really stop."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine