Monday Morning QB Column: Getting It Done

Jason Caldwell writes about Tre Mason, Nick Marshall and the 2013 Auburn football team's focus on its urgency to make the most of this transition season to new a coaching staff.

Tre-mendous Performance Again

With 32 carries for 168 yards and four touchdowns Saturday night, Auburn running back Tre Mason once again put the Tigers on his back offensively and delivered time and time again.

Now with 921 yards and 13 touchdowns on 161 carries in nine games, Mason is on pace for his second-straight 1,000-yard season. He has now scored a touchdown in six consecutive games and 13 of Auburn's last 16 games.

It's not just about Mason's production that has been impressive, but also the way he has gone about it. Carrying the ball just six times against Western Carolina and 10 against Florida Atlantic in easy wins, many of Mason's carries have come in Auburn's toughest games when the team needs him the most. That is always an important thing for an offense built around running the football.

With three SEC games remaining you can expect Mason to continue to be at the center of things for the Tigers moving forward.

Tough As Nails

It wasn't his most effective performance nor was it his prettiest, but it's hard to question the guts and determination that Auburn starter Nick Marshall showed on Saturday while playing with an obviously sore shoulder. Throwing just eight passes, but completing seven for 118 yards and a touchdown, Marshall did what was asked of him by Coach Gus Malzahn to get another win.

His development this season has been one of the biggest keys to success for the Auburn running game because of his ability to efficiently manage the zone read plays. Since finding his groove in that department against Ole Miss, Marshall has been lights out running the football.

Carrying the ball 42 times in the first four games for just 148 yards and no touchdowns, the junior has 49 carries since that time for 372 yards and five scores without the benefit of facing Western Carolina to pad his stats. His running ability and decision-making have given Auburn another weapon for an already loaded backfield and the results speak for themselves.

Who Would Have Guessed?

When this season opened very few people thought the Auburn Tigers would be in a position to win nine games, much less 10 or 11. While I'm not sure even Gus Malzahn saw this coming, one thing he didn't do was sell his team short. Going into the season the coaching staff and players talked about playing for championships. While most scoffed at the suggestion the team never wavered.

It has shown up not only in the play of the Tigers, but also the decision-making of the coaching staff. Four weeks ago the redshirt was pulled off talented freshman quarterback Jeremy Johnson with Marshall less than full speed with a sore knee and Auburn facing FCS opponent Western Carolina. The questions came about wasting him for a game when he wasn't needed, but that wasn't the point. That was never the plan nor the reason for playing Johnson. The reason he played was because this team is trying to win every game on the schedule and to do that you need to have your best players prepared to play.

Having Johnson ready may not change Auburn's won/loss recordif Marshall remains healthy, but who knows what the last three weeks hold for this team. The big freshman just may be the difference in something big.

That has shown up at other positions as well. Instead of redshirting players such as Carl Lawson, Elijah Daniel and Montravius Adams for the future, Auburn decided to play for today. While there is plenty of depth to get by this season, the trio have obviously added much-needed athleticism and even more firepower to an improving defensive line. By turning those young guys loose this season it not only created more competition, but also set the tone for a staff and a program that wants to win and win now.


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