November 20, 2013

Miracle worker

AUBURN | The miracle pass that delivered a miracle win for Auburn last weekend was a mistake.

It wasn't run properly, anyway.

The winning touchdown pass from quarterback Nick Marshall to wideout Ricardo Louis was a play Auburn calls "Little Rock," which features two short routes to bait linebackers, an intermediate dig/drag route and a skinny post route. Defenses rarely manage to defend all those routes and Georgia failed as well -- wideout Sammie Coates was open seven yards beyond the Bulldogs' linebackers while running the drag route.

Yet Marshall, concerned that the play was taking too long to develop, instead opted for the deep route despite double coverage. The ball was tipped, Louis caught it and the rest is history.

"The last thing you want to do is get sacked and at not at least give somebody a chance. He gave Ricardo a shot," offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. "Who am I to question the touchdown?"

Marshall hasn't given anyone much reason to question him lately.

The junior started slowly while acclimating to Auburn's new offense, then was forced to fight though a partially torn patellar tendon and a shoulder bruise. During the Tigers' past three games, though, Marshall has been nothing short of marvelous.

He's rushed for 352 yards and four touchdowns -- that includes an outstanding 8.4 yards per carry -- and has completed 62 percent of his passes. Marshall's play-making ability has forced defenses to take him seriously as a runner, which has allowed tailback Tre Mason to become even more productive as well.

Marshall's recent work prompted CBS analyst Gary Danielson to compare him to 2010 Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, another quarterback who changed games with both his arm and legs.

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