If someone told me Auburn would be held to under 140-yards against MSU, I would have expected a loss. What a terrific finish for Nick Marshall and the Auburn offense. Redemption is always better, when it comes during the same game. Had the game-winning drive not happened, Nick Marshall would still be haunted by the missed opportunity on the long pass-play to Sammie Coates that would have certainly resulted in a go-ahead TD. As it played out, Marshall was given the opportunity to lead his offense on a game-winning drive and he delivered. He went 6 of 8 for 66-yards and picked up a critical 3rd & 10 with his feet. These are the types of drives that make or break a quarterback and his teammates will certainly garner more faith in him as a leader.
The offense sputtered for just 18-yards during the 2nd period but picked up 441-yards in the other 3 quarters. The defense was gashed in the first half but settled down after the Bulldogs opening drive to start the second half. Once again, it was a critical moment in the game, when the defense managed to bail out the offense until they reestablished themselves. It was a beautiful ending to a game that could have easily gone either way after 3 quarters. The key was that the players never gave up and made enough plays to capture their first conference victory since 2011.
In reality, we saw enough tonight to conclude this team could still finish with a losing record but yet enough to believe this team could win 8-9 games in 2013. One might conclude the team took a step backwards tonight but I don't see it that way. We saw a team that overcame turnovers and mistakes to win the game. We saw Nick Marshall have a game-breaking performance, leading his team to a victory during a 2-minute drill. We saw a defense that is still far away from being dominant but continues to make plays as crucial moments during the game. Special teams continues to be special and were an essential component of Auburn's third victory of the season.
Inside the Numbers...
- After allowing 9.8 yards per play on first down during the first half, the Auburn defense held State to 3.7 yards during the second half.
Nick Marshall executed a play of over 30-yards to himself, something never done by an Auburn player from 1992-2013.
Nick Marshall ended the 26-game drought of Auburn's starting QB being held under 200-yards passing.
- For the third game in a row, the offense scored points in every quarter and the defense has yet to allow a single point during the final period.
- Auburn improved their record to 107-11, when scoring at least 10 points during the first period since 1981.
- Prior to tonight, Auburn was 24-40, when turning the ball over at least 3 times during a game since 1992.
- Auburn attempted 14 passes on first down with Nick Marshall going 11 of 14 for 140-yards.
Marshall was 5 of 6 on 3rd down for 114-yards and 4 conversions. He finished with a QB rating of 297.9 on third-down.
- Nine different Auburn players were targeted in the passing game tonight with Sammie Coates being targeted 8 times and Marcus Davis, 7 times.
- Though Auburn lost the TFL battle tonight 3 to 4, Auburn did have 12 QB hurries to MSU's 1. Much better pressure on the QB during the second half.
- Auburn rushed for 1.8 yards per play between the tackles and 5.71 yards outside.
- Mississippi State averaged 6.72 yards per play during the first half and 5.40 yards during the second half. During their last 6 possessions of the game, MSU averaged 3.77 yards per play.
- Dak Prescott accounted for 83.3 percent of State's offense and Nick Marshall accounted for 77.1 percent.
- After being flagged 9 times with penalties against Arkansas State, Auburn was penalized only once against MSU.
- Through 3 games the 56.9% of Auburn's offensive snaps have been part of a scoring drive. This is a major improvement form the 34.0% during 2012 and close to 60.0% by the record-setting 2010 Auburn offense.
- Auburn's 3-headed monster at RB was finally shutdown, gaining only 90-yards on 24 carries.
C.J. Uzomah made the most of his 3 opportunities with 2 resulting in explosive plays and the final being the game-winning TD reception.
Nick Marshall was directly involved in all 8 of Auburn's explosive plays on offense.
- Takeaway each team's explosive plays on offense and Auburn averaged 3.68 yards per play and MSU averaged 3.53 yards. Overall 14 combined plays during the 138 snaps, accounted for 51.1 percent of the yardage gained.
Auburn lost the trench battle during the first half but regained control during the second half. Auburn will need to play much better next week going up against a talented and physical LSU team. Of all of Auburn's explosive plays running the ball, only 1 has come between the tackles. Auburn's 1.8 yards per rush between the tackles against Mississippi State was not a good sign for the Auburn offensive line.
Gus Malzahn's initial game plan for Nick Marshall during the first 3 games has been excellent. He has mixed in a majority of short perimeter passes to set up the running game and vertical pass-offense. It has allowed Marshall to build his confidence early in the game for the past 2 weeks in a row. Though Marshall still has some touch issues, he was very good on 3rd down against MSU and was great form during the game-winning drive.
Before the season started, I saw Auburn's schedule as being an 8-game season. Outside LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama, how Auburn did during it's 8 remaining games would be the foundation of this season. A loss to Mississippi State would have been a major blow in this regard. Hopefully they can continue to build from tonight's victory with the ultimate goal of being a better team by the end of the season.