Dec. 23, 2013
C.J. Uzomah goes high to catch the game-winner against Mississippi State (Todd Van Emst photo)
First in a series of stories on Auburn's journey to the BCS National Championship Game.
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. – The clock showed 1:56 left in the game. Auburn trailed Mississippi State 20-17 on Sept. 14 at Jordan-Hare Stadium and had no timeouts left. With quarterback Nick Marshall in just his third Auburn game, the Tigers’ Southeastern Conference losing streak was on the verge of reaching 11 games.
Marshall, not even two months removed from Garden City (Kan.) Community College, ran to the huddle. He told his teammates they were going to find a way, just like first-year head coach Gus Malzahn had told them they would.
No one could have known it at the time, but Auburn was about to take the first big step toward a championship.
Marshall ran for six yards, and then completed five consecutive passes, four of them to freshman wide receiver Marcus Davis. He ran for two yards, and the Tigers had a first down at the Mississippi State 25, easily in kicker Cody Parkey’s range.
Facing third-and-10 after two incomplete passes, Marshall scrambled for 11 yards and a first down at the 14. As the clocked moved inside a minute, the crowd was up and roaring. On second-and-7 at the 11, C.J. Uzomah used a double move to break open. Marshall hit him in the end zone with 11 seconds left, and Auburn celebrated a 24-20 victory.
Mississippi State stymied Auburn’s running game like no one has done since, holding the Tigers to 120 yards. Marshall responded by completing 23-of-34 passes for 339 yards and two touchdowns.
Auburn players and coaches say that was the day they knew for certain they had a winner at quarterback.
“I told the defense don't worry about anything and just get us one more stop and we’d get it in the end zone,” Marshall said.
It was the defense that kept Auburn in the game as the offense sputtered.
After Mississippi State took a 20-14 lead with 12:38 left in the third quarter, Auburn’s defense forced five consecutive punts.
Malzahn’s first SEC win didn’t come easily, and he didn’t expect it to. But he had no complaints when it was over.
"First of all I'd like to say how proud I am of our team,” Malzahn said. “We talked before the game that it could come down to the end. A lot of these games against Mississippi State have. I said `guys we are going to find a way to win,' and I'm very proud of the way they did that.
“Our offense sputtered at times in the second half, but they went 88 yards with 1:56 on the clock, found a way to get in the end zone. I am very proud of our defense. They had some big stops there in the second half.”
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: