Offense Reigns On the Plain for A-Day 2014

Nick Marshall threw four touchdown passes as the first team offense dominated Auburn's annual spring football game.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn football fans who were expecting the offense to dominate the action on A-Day were not disappointed as the Blue team offense (first stringers) overwhelmed the White team defense (backups) in a game that finished with a 58-3 score on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Most of the action was in the first half, played with two 12-minute quarters and mostly with first team and second team players on the field. The Blue led 44-3 at intermission and added a pair of TD passes to Tony Stevens in a short second half that was played with a running clock.

Coach Gus Malzahn said he was thrilled by the attendance that was generously listed at 70,645, which "officially" makes it the second largest spring turnout in AU history behind last year's 80,000-plus.

"I would like to thank our fans," Malzahn said. "It was a great turnout, especially with the weather like it was yesterday and even today. It really means a lot to our coaching staff and players for them to come out like they did today."

The coach said the Tigers made progress in the 15 days of spring training, especially with the passing game, which was a point of emphasis. "Overall, I am real happy with spring," he noted. "I really like where we ended. I think we got better."

Nick Marshall was named the offensive MVP despite not playing in the second half. The senior quarterback hit 13-22 passes for 236 yards and four touchdowns. Every series Marshall was on the field the first offense scored.

"We are going to be good on offense this year," Marshall said. "We just have to keep working on improving over the summer."

D'haquille "Duke" Williams makes a catch on a pass from Marshall.

Backup middle linebacker Kenny Flowers was named the defensive MVP as he made five solo tackles with two assists. He had one sack and 2 1/2 tackles for lost yardage.

"It felt great to show people my improvement," the junior from Lilburn, Ga., said. "It felt great to show my teammates on defense I can be a factor."

Flowers pointed out that he is beginning to feel comfortable after making the move this spring from weakside linebacker to the middle. "I still need a lot of improvement, but I am getting a lot of help from Coach (Ellis Johnson)," he said.

Corey Grant, who missed last year's spring game because he was running a fever, made sure his last A-Day was a good one. He led all rushers with 128 yards and one touchdown. He had the longest run of the day, a 54-yarder for a score.

"We call him tail lights because when Corey gets a seam he is gone and all you can see is the back of his jersey," Marshall said of the former high school state sprint champion.

Cameron Artis-Payne rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries while the day ended very early for the third player in the competition to be the No. 1 running back. Peyton Barber ran the football one time for 13 yards, but injured his ankle on the play and didn't return. Malzahn said after the game the ankle injury is not a serious one.

"I think I played alright," Artis-Payne said. "We came out and we executed well. That was the game plan. Coach (Rhett Lashlee) told us to come out, execute well and have some fun, and I think we had some fun today."

Newcomer D'haquille Williams had a big day and led the Blue receivers in catches with five. He finished with 88 yards and one touchdown.

Marshall said he has been impressed by the juco transfer. "He was great," the quarterback said of Williams. "He can get on the ball. He gets out of the jam and everything. He is just an awesome kid to have out there on your team."

Quan Bray was the Blue team leader in receiving yards with 89 on four catches with two going for touchdowns.

The A-Day game was a strong one for senior wideout Quan Bray.

Melvin Ray had four catches for 69 yards for the Blue team and two catches for 22 yards playing for the White squad.

Sammie Coates, who caught two passes for 29 yards, scored a touchdown on a one-handed catch in the end zone on a fade route.

Sammie Coates makes a touchdown grab.

In other news and notes:

*Jeremy Johnson completed 6-13 passes for 43 yards for the White team and 3-8 for 87 yards and one TD for the Blue. There were no interceptions in the game and just one lost fumble that was recovered by newcomer Derrick Moncrief.

*Redshirt freshman kicker Daniel Carlson made field goals of 27 and 50 yards and just missed another field goal of 50-plus. Malzahn said the Colorado native has done a good job kicking the football throughout the spring.

*Linebacker Khari Harding did not play on Saturday after suffering a broken bone in his foot on Thursday. He was on crutches as was defensive end Carl Lawson, who hurt his knee on Thursday. Lawson said after the game that he didn't believe it is a serious injury. Malzahn said he is expecting all of his injured players to be ready to go when preseason drills open this summer.

*The 2013 league champs were honored at halftime with the presentation of their SEC championship rings. All-SEC center Reese Dismukes, who was held out of the A-Day Game so backup Xavier Dampeer could get extra practice, won the Ken Rice Award as the team's top blocker.

*Marshall won the Pat Sullivan Award as the top offensive player in 2013 while Robenson Therezie won the Zeke Smith Award as the top defender. Greg Robinson was named the Lineman of the Year and Cassanova McKinzy won the Mike Kolen Award as the top tackler.

*Tony Stevens caught his first touchdown pass on a 38-play as he hooked up with Jeremy Johnson in the third period. Jonathan Wallace threw the other TD pass to Stevens, a 20-yard screen play in the fourth period. The Tigers used four QBs on A-Day with walk-on Tucker Tuberville completing 1-2 passes for five yards as his father, former AU head coach Tommy Tuberville, was at the game to watch the walk-on at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

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