Phillip Marshall: A startling offensive performance

Dec. 11, 2013

Ramblin’ around …

It’s a startling statistic that probably has not received enough attention. In 2010, when Gus Malzahn was offensive coordinator, Auburn overwhelmed South Carolina 56-17 in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game. That established a record for points scored in the game. Last Saturday, Auburn beat Missouri 59-42 to establish another new record.

Add it up. In two SEC Championship Games, Malzahn’s offenses have scored 115 points. That’s an average of 57.5 points per game. We’re not talking about scoring lots of points against bad teams. We’re talking about a championship game. Missouri was 11-1 and had been dominant in winning the East. The truth is that, had it not been for two Auburn turnovers in the first half, Saturday’s game would have been much more lopsided than it turned out to be.

Everywhere Malzahn has coached, as offensive coordinator or head coach, his teams have consistently been far better at the end of seasons than at the beginning. And he’s had eight starting quarterbacks in eight seasons.

Next season, quarterback Nick Marshall will return. Fullback Jay Prosch is the only scholarship senior on the entire offense.

What a neat story it is that running back Tre Mason is going to New York City as a Heisman finalist. He might not look imposing at 5-foot-9 and 200 pounds, but on the field, he’s as good as there is in college football.



Just as importantly, Mason is a well-spoken and polite young man, quick with a handshake and a smile. Last season, when he inexplicably didn’t carry the ball as much as he should have, he never uttered a word of complaint.

In SEC games in 2012, Mason averaged just 12.6 carries in SEC games. Other than having 21 carries at Alabama, he didn’t carry the ball as many as 20 times in an SEC game. He had eight carries against Mississippi State, nine against LSU and six against Arkansas.


In case you missed it, four Auburn players will play in the Senior Bowl. They are Prosch, defensive end Dee Ford, cornerback Chris Davis and place-kicker Cody Parkey.

Punter Steven Clark doesn’t seem to be attracting a lot of attention lately, and that is puzzling. Clark has been off the charts the past two games. No one is better at dropping the ball inside the 10 or even the 5.

Clark didn’t make All-SEC, nor was he invited to the Senior Bowl. Regardless, he’ll get his opportunity in the NFL. And I like his chances.

I’d like to be a fly on the wall to hear the conversations between Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and Mason at the Heisman festivities in New York City this weekend.

I’ll be surprised if Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee is seriously interested in the vacant head coaching position at Arkansas State. But Lashlee’s time to be a head coach is coming, and it’s coming soon. He has everything it takes to be successful at any level of college football.

I was really impressed by Missouri quarterback James Franklin and with receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. The other receivers, though tall and physically imposing, really seemed fairly ordinary.

Maybe I spend too much time in my car listening to satellite radio. Sometimes it’s interesting. More often, it just leaves me shaking my head.

Wednesday, I heard a debate about whether Malzahn would be interested in becoming the head coach at Texas. Never mind, that he agreed to a new contract just days ago and said he wasn’t going anywhere.

One of the reasons the host gave for saying Malzahn should be interested in Texas was that he said it’s easier to win at Texas than it is at Auburn or any other SEC school and that Malzahn wouldn’t have to deal with Alabama’s Nick Saban. That assumes, of course, that the massive amount of smoke around a possible Saban move to Texas comes to nothing.

Anyway, I started thinking about the idea that Malzahn would be interested in Texas because it would be easier to win. I believe that premise is faulty. At least it’s faulty in relation to the top coaches out there.

There’s a reason the SEC is loaded with big-time coaches, and it goes beyond the lucrative paydays. Coaches like Malzahn, Saban, Les Miles, Steve Spurrier, etc., are competitors at heart. They want to be at schools that have the resources to win, but they also want to measure themselves against the best.

Auburn, in fact, has had more undefeated seasons in the modern era of college football than has Texas. And then there’s the prestige of playing in the SEC. Auburn, Baylor, Michigan State and Ohio State all finished the regular season with one loss. And it’s Auburn that will play for the national championship.

Nobody is playing right now, so I guess these guys have to find something to talk about.

Another radio debate centered around whether Alabama players would be excited about playing in the Sugar Bowl after losing to Auburn in the Iron Bowl. That’s an example of yet another myth, that players mope around for weeks because of one loss.

Alabama lost the Iron Bowl in heartbreaking fashion in 2010, and then overwhelmed Michigan State 49-7 in the Capital One Bowl.

Enough about radio debates. I’d really like to know who actually voted on the coaches All-SEC team. It’s impossible for me to comprehend that coaches did not put Auburn offensive tackle on the first or even second team. He should have been a unanimous first-team choice.

As I tweeted earlier, that makes the entire voting process suspect.

Until next time …


Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for Follow Marshall on Twitter: