December 20, 2013

Passing interest

AUBURN | No NCAA team rushed for more yards than the Tigers during the 2013 season. Only nine teams scored more points.

That doesn't mean Gus Malzahn is satisfied.

The Auburn coach on Monday night said Auburn used only a portion of his playbook this fall. Quarterback Nick Marshall's aptitude was a limiting factor early in the season -- the junior arrived on campus only a few weeks before fall camp began -- but something else hampered offensive development through October and November.

"We haven't used all of (the playbook) because we've been able to run the football effectively," Malzahn said. "You've always got to be prepared. If they take away something, you've got to have an answer. I call them the 'what ifs.'"

Auburn's passing game has been overshadowed by what the team has accomplished on the ground. Tailback Tre Mason became a finalist for the Heisman Trophy on the strength of five triple-digit rushing games to close out the regular season.

Marshall averaged 112 rushing yards per game during the same stretch. Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee had little reason to deviate from their plan to attack teams on the ground.

That approach yielded a Southeastern Conference title after all.

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