Monday, December 2, 2013
Player of the week: SEC
By Jeff Barlis
Without Nick Marshall, Chris Davis' grand finale -- the play now etched in history as Auburn's "Kick-Six," -- couldn't have happened. It was an Iron Bowl for the ages, as Marshall's Tigers pulled the staggering upset.
The Tigers' junior college transfer quarterback has come through in the clutch repeatedly throughout this miracle of a season. Saturday, in his and Auburn's biggest game of the season, he did it again.
As usual, Marshall directed Gus Malzahn's offense to great success with his arm and legs. He had the first big play of the game, a 45-yard TD sprint untouched on a read-option keeper that showed off his blazing speed. Marshall's uncanny connection on the read-option with tailback Tre Mason, the SEC's leading rusher, was on full display in the first half as the Tigers racked up 162 yards on the ground.
Alabama's defense came into Saturday's game with imposing numbers -- fourth in the nation in rushing defense, giving up 91.3 yards a game, and one touchdown or less allowed in nine of 11 games.
After it was over, Marshall and the Tigers' running game had earned the respect of Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban.
"They are a very difficult offense to defend. Like I said, it takes a lot of discipline," he said. "You certainly have to stop the run a little better than we did today to have a chance to beat a team like this."
Perhaps most impressive was the Tigers' fortitude in fighting back to tie the score twice after being down 21-7 in the second quarter.
"You've got to maintain your poise and play football until the clock says zero," Mason said. "He's the leader, he's the quarterback, he has to lead us and he's doing a good job of [showing poise]."
Marshall finished 11-of-16 passing for 97 yards and two touchdowns, none bigger than his nifty toss to a wide-open Sammie Coates for a 39-yard score that tied the score at 28-28 with 32 seconds remaining.
With 99 yards on 17 carries, Marshall now has the fourth-most rushing yards in the nation among QBs (922) to go along with 10 TDs. He's averaging 83.8 yards a game, fifth in the nation among QBs.
More importantly, after two straight miracle finishes, Marshall has the No. 3 Tigers in the SEC championship game and poised to challenge for the BCS national championship game.
For the former Georgia Bulldog defensive back who transformed back into a quarterback at little Garden City (Kan.) Community College, it doesn't get any more impressive than the arc of this season's journey.