Auburn, Ala.--When the pressure is on and the Auburn Tigers need to make an offensive play to win a football game, Nick Marshall’s teammates and coaches say they feel confident seeing the football in the hands of their senior quarterback.
“When it comes down to crunch time, when it comes down to big games, he is going to perform,” says tight end C.J. Uzomah, who caught the game-winning touchdown pass from Marshall with 10 seconds left last year to give the Tigers a 24-20 victory over Mississippi State in Auburn’s first SEC game last season.
“He's going to leave his all on the field and give his best effort,” adds Uzomah, whose No. 2 ranked Tigers will travel to Starkville on Saturday for the rematch vs. Mississippi State, a team that has a No. 3 national ranking in this week’s AP?poll.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn remembers Marshall leading the Tigers on the 12-play, 88-yard drive to pull out a victory last year vs. the Bulldogs on a night the Tigers struggled offensively.
“That is when we first saw that Nick is very special when the game is on the line,” Malzahn says. “He has answered the bell every time the game has been close. He has that special knack.”
This year’s Auburn-Mississippi State matchup features what could be an exciting quarterback duel with the home team led by junior Dak Prescott, who is off to a very hot start with 1,713 total yards in five games.
Prescott helped set up this week’s SEC West showdown by rushing for three touchdowns and throwing for two more last Saturday in a 48-31 victory over previously unbeaten Texas A&M. Several hours later in Auburn, Marshall passed for two scores and ran for two more in a 41-7 rout of LSU.
Marshall, who helped the Tigers reach the national title game last year, led his team to what could have been the game-winning drive in the final minutes, but the Seminoles rallied for the winning score with 13 seconds left.
Determined to get back to the championship game this year, Marshall and his team are off to a good start towards achieving that goal. The only hiccup along the way for the quarterback happened in the summer when he was charged with having a small amount of marijuana and illegally tinted windows during a traffic stop in Georgia.
The quarterback apologized to the team and was not allowed to start the season opener or represent Auburn at SEC Media Days and the ESPY Awards. However, other than the one incident he has stepped up as a leader in his second year at Auburn, according to Malzahn and Rhett Lashlee, the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach, who says that Marshall is bigger, stronger, more confident and a better passer than he was as a junior.
Lashlee says Marshall’s performance vs. LSU was the senior’s best so far this season as he used his quick feet and skills running the zone read play to rush for 119 yards on 16 carries while completing 14-22 passes for 207 yards.
On Saturday in Starkville the Tigers will need their quarterback to be sharp again, especially if the QB for the Bulldogs plays as well as he has in previous games this season.
Dak Prescott Is Taking The SEC By Storm.
A Mississippi State win over Auburn on Saturday would mean a lot of things for a lot of different reasons. The Bulldogs have been considered at best middle of the SEC pack over the course of the last fifteen years, but with back to back wins over top ten opponents, LSU and Texas A&M, Bulldog fans are left to dream about the possibilities of what may lie ahead.The series with Auburn over the last four years has been extremely competitive. After a last second loss on the Plains at Auburn last year, Bulldog fans used the Tigers' meteoric rise to a BCS title game as a badge of honor. Fans, players and coaches alike felt they let one slip away, but at the same time felt that if Auburn was a national title contender, then the Bulldogs weren't too far from that themselves. Flash forward a year, Mississippi State is ranked in the top five nationally for the first time in school history thanks in large part to the play of junior quarterback, Dak Prescott. With the Bulldogs climbing the polls, Prescott has climbed the ladder of awareness in the eyes of opinion makers and Heisman voters. Prescott has been exceptional in five games and is on pace to throw for over 2,500 yards and rush for over 1,000. The Bulldogs' run from unranked to #3 in the Associated Press poll has only shined a bigger spotlight and their talented signal caller who has thrived in big games. In two SEC games, Prescott has completed 35 of 50 passes (70%) for 536 yards and four touchdowns. In addition to his work as a passer, Prescott has rushed for 192 yards and four scores in SEC play.
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