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‘The midst of something special’

AUBURN, Ala. -- Once again, No. 7 Auburn came up with the game-winning play in a crucial situation. This time, it came in the most dramatic fashion.

Malzahn has the Tigers flying high/Todd Van Emst photo

On 4th-and-18 with 36 seconds left, quarterback Nick Marshall heaved a long pass down the middle of the field, which bounced off a couple of Georgia defenders, before being caught for a 73-yard touchdown by Ricardo Louis.

“With our guys, we talked about, ‘Hey, find a way to win.’” This team has the ‘it’ factor, that’s just the bottom line,” Malzahn said. “They complement each other very well. Offensively, defensively and special teams, they step up when they have to. They are a joy to coach, and it was one of those memorable moments that I will remember for a long time.

“I told them a minute ago (in the locker room) that I think we’re in the midst of something special.”

With the 43-38 win over No. 25 Georgia, Auburn improved to 10-1, a seven-game improvement over last season’s 3-9 record, which is a school-record turnaround.

“We always say, ‘Remember where we came from.’ We came from the bottom, literally, the bottom last year. We know how that feels,” said senior defensive end Dee Ford, who had one sack and six quarterback hurries. “One thing that always works for us when we find ourselves not focused, is remember last year.

“We’re fighting for everything right now. We’re fighting for all the marbles right now so it brings on the focus. We know that we have to get better.”

Malzahn said the players, including Marshall never got down when they blew a 20-point fourth-quarter lead to trail the Bulldogs 38-37 with 1:49 remaining.

“This team is very unique,” Malzahn said. “There’s a lot of tension and pressures since the moment had swung, but they had bright eyes in the huddle. It was really unbelievable. I’m going to say this about our crowd, our crowd was unbelievable. And even in the end, when they took the lead, they were still with us and inspired our players and coaches.  We’re all in this thing together.”

Gus Malzahn postgame video interview 11-16-13

Malzahn said the key to the turnaround has been the all the coaches and players working hard and believing in each other.

“This team, they are special. This is a special group,” he said. “They’ve been through a lot, and they rallied, came together and believed in each other. They bought in to the fact to get better in each game.

“I told them before the game, we’ve been building up for this moment.  The moment was to play with these guys. They did that tonight.”

Malzahn and the Tigers will now turn their attention to No. 1 Alabama, which will visit Jordan-Hare Stadium in two weeks with the SEC West title up for grabs and a trip to Atlanta to play for the SEC Championship.

But Malzahn is not ready to think about the Tide just yet.

“I’m going to enjoy this one tonight. That one aged me, I’ve lost some years off my life,” he said. “I’ll go to church in the morning and after church I will flip the switch.”

This season, Malzahn has made a habit of celebrating big wins with his wife and family at a local Waffle House.

“This is definitely a Waffle House night,” Malzahn said with a big smile on his face as he walked out of the interview room.

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