One of the reasons for Nick Marshall's drop in completion percentage this season is the lack of short to intermediate pass attempts through 6 games. Last season through Marshall's first 6 games, he attempted 17.4% of his passes beyond 20-yards of the line of scrimmage. This season it is 22.3%. Last season through his first 6 games, 35.7% of his pass attempts were beyond 10-yards of the line of scrimmage. This season it is 43.1%. Though his ratio of impact pass-plays has improved from last season, Auburn has missed out on opportunities to extend drives by attempting deep passes on third-down rather than targeting areas closer to the sticks. Hopefully this is something Auburn's coaches will research and address during the bye-week.
On this play Auburn has the ball at their own 41-yard line with a 1st & 10. The Tigers come out in a 4-WR with the intent of running a play-action pass, with Nick Marshall on a half-roll from the pocket. Duke Williams is lined up in the slot on the wide-side of the field with the safety play 11-yards off the line of scrimmage. At the snap Nick Marshall will play-action with Cameron Artis-Payne, making a slight roll to his right.
With the safety playing so far off Williams, Duke Williams will run a short button-hook to the 44-yard line. Nick Marshall delivers his pass over an oncoming pass-rusher to Williams, who spins up field. The safety attempts to recover the distance to make a play on Williams but Williams cuts inside of the safety to continue up field. Williams races down field for a 32-yard gain and an Auburn first down.
The short route takes advantage of the loose coverage and the roll-out by Marshall gives him a clear line of sight to his target. Last season through his first 6 games, Marshall completed 67.1% of his passes on first-down. This season it has dropped to 62.5%, primarily because of the increase in vertical passes. Last season Marshall closed out the last 6 games, completing 80.8% of his passes on first-down. Nick Marshall will need to make this kind of improvement to close out the second-half of the season if Auburn is to make another serious run for another championship.