AUBURN, Ala. -- In the most tension-filled moments of a game, Nick Marshall has remained cool, calm and collected.
Trailing 20-17, Marshall led Auburn on a 12-play, 88-yard drive, throwing an 11-yard touchdown pass with 10 seconds left to beat Mississippi State 24-20 in only his third start at quarterback.
After a rough start at LSU, Marshall led Auburn’s offense to 333 second-half yards. He rushed for 140 tough yards and two touchdowns to lead the Tigers to a win over Ole Miss.
And Saturday, with a national television audience watching, Marshall out-dueled 2012 Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Johnny Manziel to give Auburn a 45-41 upset win at Texas A&M.
“He's just got a calmness about him,” Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. “He knows how to win and whether it's throwing for over 300 against Mississippi State, or against Ole Miss and A&M doing more with his feet, he's not rattled.
“When something bad happens, like he misses a few throws in a row -- which happened in the second quarter and stalled us a couple of times -- or we fumble, he's done a good job of having a short memory and going forward and getting on to the next drive. His teammates believe in him, I know he believes in them and that's been a positive for us.”
Marshall accounted for 336 total yards and four touchdowns against the Aggies, earning SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors for his effort.
“It builds a lot of confidence going into the next week's game,” Marshall said. “Because we've got a lot of players on the offensive side of the ball that can make plays, and then our line blocked their tails off and we were able to execute our tails off at a high rate.”
Marshall is second on the team and 14th in the SEC averaging 64.7 rushing yards per game. He had 140 rushing yards against Ole Miss and 100 against Texas A&M.
Many of those yards came on zone reads, a play Marshall has become more and more comfortable with each week.
“Nick has gotten more and more reps at it,” Lashlee said. “He's gotten more and more reps with Tre and Cameron in-game. We work it all the time in practice, but in-game reps, you get a bunch of different looks in a game, especially when you're having success.”
Marshall said one of the key’s to the play is delaying the decision to hand the ball off to the running back or keep it as long as possible.
“It's just like when you carry out your fakes like that, the little tenths of a second it holds that 'backer, you're able to gas them like that,” Marshall said.
Marshall said he felt 100 percent against Texas A&M after sitting out the previous week’s game against Western Carolina with a knee injury. Freshman Jeremy Johnson filled in for Marshall at quarterback against the Catamounts and earned SEC Freshman of the Week.
Johnson played a few snaps against the Aggies but not as much as Lashlee was planning.
“I thought Nick was playing really well. There was a plan no matter how Nick was playing to get Jeremy infused in certain ways and it didn't involve putting him in for a play and taking him out. We don't want to get into that scenario,” Lashlee said. “It just, unfortunately, went that way and I thought he did well. Two throws, you come in cold, they're not easy. They weren't terrible throws. We've got to hit them.
“But the plan will change week to week moving forward. It'll be a plan that is clearly defined, at least from our side of things, because we feel like there are certain things he brings to the table and does well and we want to put him in position to be successful.”
Want to enjoy all of the premium content on AuburnUndercover.com? Click HERE to find out how to receive access to the latest in Auburn athletics FREE until the end of the year!!! Get all the breaking news, insight from the best staff of insiders in the market, and join a lively message board community. Also check out our recruiting database and enjoy quality content from football, basketball, baseball, and other Olympic sports.