Dec. 2, 2013
Auburn's Nick Marshall splits Alabama's defense (Anthony Hall photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. - Quarterback Nick Marshall for the Heisman Trophy? Why not?
"He should be in the mix, no doubt," said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said Monday. "He is one of the better players in college football. He is leading our team."
Last seen, Marshall was throwing two touchdown passes and running for another to help Auburn beat Alabama 34-28 to win the SEC Championship and a spot in Saturday's SEC Championship Game against Missouri in Atlanta.
Auburn was 3-9 last season without Marshal and Malzahn. Auburn is 11-1 this season with them.
"We are a quarterback-oriented offense. If our quarterback plays well, we play well, and if he doesn't, we don't," Malzahn said. "We put a lot of pressure on the guy as far as not just when the ball is snapped, but before the ball is snapped, after the ball is snapped and we rely on him a lot. I think it is a tribute to Nick."
Marshall's clutch 39-yard touchdown pass to Sammie Coates with 32 seconds left tied Alabama at 28-all, setting the stage for Chris Davis' 100-yard run to glory to win it with no time remaining.
Auburn's offense took off once Marshall, a junior college transfer, got the feel for Malzahn's offense. The Tigers have scored more than 30 points in eight straight games.
"What he has done to lead our team and put us where we are at is really unbelievable," Malzahn said. "He has gotten more comfortable, but that is to be expected. He was learning the offense the first four weeks and each week he is getting more comfortable.
"His teammates are playing hard for him. You are talking about the best players in America, and I think at this point in the season, you have to start mentioning his name with a bunch of these guys."
Malzahn said Marshall is "making good decisions on when to not throw it, when to throw it away and when to take off. That is a sign of experience and a sign of a good quarterback."
Marshall has developed as he has gotten more comfortable with the zone-read, a play in which he decides to run or hand off. But that's not all.
"When things break down, that's the sign of a really good quarterback. They make plays with their feet or they make plays with their arm, or they throw the ball away. I think that's a big key in being a successful quarterback specifically in our league," Malzahn said.
Malzahn also talked up Tre Mason, who leads the SEC in rushing.
"He is a hard-nosed runner, a very physical runner. To get the rushing yards he did against the team last week, that's rare and he deserves a lot of credit," Malzahn said.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine