Considering the situation the Auburn Tigers are in early in their transition season to a new coaching staff, a new offense and a new defense after struggling so badly last year, winning the 2013 SEC opener vs. Mississippi State was a big deal for Gus Malzahn’s football team. In fact, I would say it was a very big deal.
I also believe the way the Tigers pulled out the victory with an exciting 88-yard drive in the final two minutes of the game makes the victory an even more important one because it reinforces the belief of the players that they are on the right path toward success.
One of the biggest questions about this year’s team was how Nick Marshall would perform without having the benefit of learning the offense in spring training. From what I have seen the quarterback improved a lot from game one to game two and he made an even bigger jump in game three.
The fact that he passed for 339 yards vs. Mississippi State is impressive. Considering that the Tigers are not getting great play out of the wide receivers, that total is even more impressive.
It looks to me like Marshall and the receivers he is throwing the ball to are still in a growing process getting acclimated to each other. Normally, that is something that would happened in spring drills and in the summer voluntary workouts, but the quarterback’s late arrival from junior college prevented that from happening.
Marshall’s potential to continue to grow as a quarterback is exciting for this year’s Auburn team and so is how he has carried himself on the field. I haven’t seen him flinch one time so far this season.
What is also positive is that he doesn’t seem like he gets too high when things are going well and he doesn’t get down on himself when things don’t go as planned.
That 88-yard drive he led on Saturday night to win the game 24-20 on a perfect pass with 10 seconds left is as good as I have seen around here in a long time.
Another thing I have liked about the Tigers so far this season is that defensive line coach Rodney Garner has been playing a lot of different guys at the end and tackle positions.
By keeping fresh guys on the field, Auburn’s defensive front is playing with a lot of energy late in games against offensive linemen who have been on the field for 60 or 70 snaps. I think this is one of the reasons the Tigers have yet to allow any points in the fourth quarter so far this season.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming. Dye writes three columns for AUTigers.com--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat’s Picks.
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