Dec. 25, 2013
Nick Marshall passes for 222 yards in Auburn’s loss at LSU (Todd Van Emst photo)
Fourth in a series of stories on Auburn's journey to the BCS National Championship Game.
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. – On a rainy night at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Auburn’s 2013 football team showed in defeat that the dark days of 2012 would not return.
With Jeremy Hill running for touchdowns of 49 and 10 yards, LSU bolted to a 21-0 with 12:34 left in the second quarter. A beatdown of epic proportions seemed at hand. But these Tigers wouldn’t let it happen.
From that point on, they got better than they got. Had it not been for an onsides kick that was mystifyingly overturned on replay, they might even have won the game. They ran 48 plays in the second half, exhausting LSU’s defense.
LSU hung on to win 35-21, but the signal had been given. This team would not come apart like the previous season’s team. This team would fight to the end.
And this team would not lose again en route to the Southeastern Conference championship and the BCS Championship Game.
Tailback Tre Mason gave a sign of things to come, rushing for 132 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. Cameron Artis-Payne scored on a 12-yard run. Quarterback Nick Marshall passed for 224 yards. Sammie Coates caught four passes for 139 yards.
"I am happy with where we are heading as a team,” A lot of guys that were here last year are back. They know how it feels from last year to give up or lose badly. That feeling can carry over to next year, and we didn't want to go through that again. None of my teammates quit tonight."
First-year head coach Gus Malzahn said he saw in the second half a team that would not give in, and one that had a chance to continue to grow.
"I think it was obvious in the beginning of the game we did not respond very well to the elements and to the crowd,” Malzahn said. “We kind of found ourselves in a hole. I am proud of our team coming back in the second half. They came back and battled.
“We have been talking about improving each practice and each game, and even though it hurts right now, I think there were some good things out there that we could improve upon for the rest of the year."
With a bye the following Saturday, Auburn coaches took a close look at what they were doing. They decided their best chance at success was to focus on running the ball. Mason and Marshall would be the bellcows.
The rest is history. Auburn is 12-1 will play Florida State for the national championship on Jan. 6 at the Rose Bowl.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: