Tigers Race Past The Vols On Rocky Top

Auburn won its ninth game as the Tigers ran by Tennessee for a 55-23 SEC victory in Knoxville with quarterback Nick Marshall leading a ground attack that crushed the Vols.

Knoxville, Tenn.--Nick Marshall rushed for 214 yards, eight shy of Travis Tidwell's school record for a quarterback, as Auburn racked up 444 rushing yards on the way to a 55-23 SEC football victory at Tennessee.

Marshall did his damage on just 14 runs, an average of 15.3 yards per carry, as he threatened the QB rushing record set in 1946 vs. Furman of 222 yards by Travis Tidwell.

"He is a great athlete," Coach Gus Malzahn said. "He is starting to understand the offense. He is making the right decisions. When he gets the ball out in space he can really do some things."

About the only thing the junior quarterback did wrong was throw a pick-six on a pass late in the second quarter when the Tigers appeared to have the momentum. However, two plays later he scored on a 38-yard keeper to put the Tigers on top 34-20 at halftime and the Tigers ran away from the Vols in the second half.

"I made a bad read," Marshall said about his interception. "I really tried to throw it at the ground, but No. 55 (Jacques Smith) made a great play on it and put the ball in the end zone. I was able to put that play behind me and came back and worried about the next drive.

"I had to redeem myself because adversity hit us," Marshall added. "This whole season we have been able to overcome adversity."

Malzahn noted that Auburn's quick-strike score right before the halftime to return the lead to two touchdowns was huge. "They had all the momentum," he pointed out. "The place was going crazy and we came back and answered. That was really a big plus."

Nick Marshall runs for a touchdown vs. the Vols.

The second half sprint away from the Vols started on the opening kickoff as Corey Grant raced 90 yards for a touchdown. Earlier in the game Chris Davis scorched the Vols on a punt return of 85 yards. The last time Auburn returned both a kickoff and punt for a score in the same game was 1984 when Brent Fullwood did it on a kickoff and Trey Gainous on a punt return.

Auburn improved its record to 9-1 overall and 5-1 in the SEC as the Tigers defeated old rival Tennessee for the sixth straight time dating back to 2003. UT dropped to 4-6 overall and 1-5 in the league with a third straight loss.

"It was a true team effort," Coach Gus Malzahn said. "We faced some adversity early. I am real proud of our special teams. There were two special teams touchdowns that were momentum plays that really helped turn the game around.

"I was real proud of our discipline," Malzahn added. "We had one penalty, I believe. It was an offsides lining up in the neutral zone. I am just real happy with our team. It was a true team effort--a big victory in a tough place to play."

For a second consecutive game the Tigers threw less than 10 passes. The Tigers tossed just seven, completing three for just 35 yards with one TD and one interception.

"When you are running the football, just keep doing it," Malzahn said of the decision to throw so few passes. "That is kind of who we are developing into although I still believe we can throw the football. There is no doubt in my mind we can, but when you don't have to there is a pretty good feeling when you can line up and run the football."

Malzahn said the only "negatives for the day" were two turnovers, but he noted the Tigers were able to not let the mistakes affect the performance. "They are playing together, they are showing some mental toughness," he said. "They are not panicking, they are believing and they are playing together."

With Auburn's big day on offense and special teams the fact that the Tigers' defense gave up 226 rushing yards was not a big issue, especially because the Tigers stiffened when the Vols got near the goal line. AU's defense allowed just 16 points on a day the Tigers could have scored 70 if Malzahn didn't put the brakes on his offense starting late in the third quarter.

Tre Mason scored three touchdowns for the Tigers and finished the game with 117 yards on 20 carries. Cameron Artis-Payne rushed for 53 yards on 12 carries and Corey Grant ran for 48 yards on four carries.

Tre Mason finished the game with 177 all purpose yards, including 60 on three kickoff returns.

First Half Highlights:

Auburn won the toss and deferred. Tennessee took advantage to jump to a 3-0 lead on a 39-yard field goal by Michael Palardy on a nine-play drive that covered 53 yards.

The Tigers came out throwing and managed a first down before punting to the Vols, who went three-and-out. Davis then returned Palardy's punt 42 yards to the UT 22-yard line.

Two plays later Marshall threw a pass down the right sideline into the end zone to tight end C.J. Uzomah that covered 25 yards. Auburn led 6-3 when Parkey's PAT kick was blocked. "Nick's pass was perfect," Uzomah said of the wheel route play.

The Vols put together their second long drive on the next possession, moving 50 yards on 11 plays to tie the game with 3:26 left in the opening quarter on a 42-yard field goal by Palardy.

After not committing a turnover at Fayetteville, the Tigers surrendered the football to Vols in the opening quarter when Mason fumbled giving the home team possession at its 43.

The Vols made the Tigers pay for the mistake by scoring three plays later on a 16-yard run by Rajion Neal with 14:50 left in the half to make the score 13-6.

The Tigers answered in a spectacular way. After the kickoff for a touchback, Marshall raced up the middle and cut toward the sideline before being knocked out of bounds at the UT 13. On the next play Mason raced around left end for the score to tie the game at 13-13 on a two-play drive that took just 32 seconds.

Following a third down sack by freshman defensive end Elijah Daniel the Tigers scored on an 85-yard punt return by Davis to move ahead 20-13.

The senior cornerback bobbled the ball on the catch, but scooped it and got a convoy of blockers down the left sideline who escorted him into the end zone. It was the third longest punt return in Auburn history and first for a touchdown since Robert Dunn went the distance in 2008 vs. Louisiana-Monroe.

Halftime Numbers:

Despite a 22:09 to 7:51 advantage in time of possession and running 47 plays to 23 for the Tigers at halftime, UT was out-gained 280-248 in total yards.

The Tigers rushed 245 yards on eight carries with Marshall gaining 164 on seven carries. Mason added 57 rushing yards on eight carries.

Marshall was 3-5 passes for 35 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Josh Dobbs of UT hit 12-18 passes for 95 yards and the Vols rushed for 153 yards on 29 carries.

Second Half Highlights:

It didn't take long for Auburn's second half highlights to start as Grant raced 90 yards for a score to put the Tigers on top 41-20.

Tennessee then kept the ball for 11 plays before settling on a 40-yard field goal with 10:39 left in the third quarter.

The Tigers responded to the UT score with a touchdown drive covering 55 yards in eight plays. Mason scored the touchdown at four yards out with 7:52 left in the third quarter.

The only other score came with 13:07 left in the fourth as Mason scored from a yard out to end a drive that chewed up 6:17 and covered 73 yards on 12 plays.

Worth Noting, Part 1: The 28 points are the most ever scored by Auburn in the second quarter against an SEC team breaking the mark of 24 vs. Mississippi State in 2003.

Worth Noting, Part 2: Mason passed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for a second consecutive season with a 10-yard run in the third quarter. He now has eight 100-yard rushing games as a Tiger.

Tre Mason is shown at Saturday's Tiger Walk, which featured a large turnout of Auburn fans.

Stat Of the Game: The Tigers averaged 8.4 per rushing play and it could have been higher if they had not tried to run out the clock in the fourth period. Auburn was averaging 10 yards per rush at the end of three periods.

Malzahn said that the Tigers were able to continue their trend of improving with a good week of practice followed by a strong performance on Saturday. "We made those two critical mistakes, fumbling the football and the pick-six, but besides that we got better."

The Tigers return to action next Saturday with a home game vs. Georgia.

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