Nov. 20, 2013
Auburn's Nick Marshall made the right throw against Georgia Shanna Lockwood/USA Today)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. - The play was called "Little Rock."
Gus Malzahn had it in his back pocket "from way back when," when he was the head coach at Shiloh Christian in Arkansas, and had it ready, just in case, to get to the state championship game in the state's biggest city.
It came in handy against Georgia last week, too.
Quarterback Nick Marshall's long-in-the-air 73-yard touchdown pass to Ricardo Louis led Auburn past the Bulldogs 43-38 and has sent the Tigers to the Alabama game on Nov. 30 with a 10-1 record. Of course, Auburn got a little help. The ball bounced off a Georgia defender right into Louis' hands.
Still, Marshall's first option on the fourth-and-18 play was to throw it to Sammie Coates to pick up the first down. Marshall chose Little Rock.
"My experience is some players just have a way to make a play when others can't, and any time you make a play like that at the end of the game and you're successful with, everything that was on the line, you just say, `hey, good job,'" Malzahn said.
Malzahn said sometimes you review such a play with your quarterback. Even though it was successful, the first call was to Coates.
Malzahn said Marshall is now "just being comfortable running the offense with communication and his reads, his progression, his game management."
Malzahn has made the national media rounds ever since, and, Wednesday, was named a semifinalist for the Maxwell Football Club's national coach of the year award.
He's been coaching during this off week, too.
"This week is really cleaning up and trying to get better in what we do," Malzahn said. "But, at the same time, we're peaking ahead. I know as coaches we're definitely doing that, but we're really trying to worry a little bit more about ourselves at this point and improve on what we do."
Improvements after a win?
"If you look at the fourth quarter, we were up by 20 points and had to have a long pass to win the game. That were a lot of teaching moments in that fourth quarter we've got to improve on moving forward," Malzahn said.
Auburn had a light practice Sunday. The Tigers practiced in full pads Tuesday and will practice again late Wednesday afternoon.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine