The drive that saved Auburn's 2013 SEC title run before it really began
Auburn hadn't won an SEC game in 23 months. Nick Marshall hadn't been a consistent passer. Neither mattered on a drive for the ages.
TE C.J. Uzomah (Auburn Tigers)
Nick Marshall hadn’t found any rhythm yet.
Two drives earlier, he threw an interception on the first play of a drive that started in perfect field position for Auburn. And, on the last drive, he overshot Sammie Coates on what would have been a go-ahead touchdown.
When he took the field with 1:56 left on the clock in Auburn’s Week 3 SEC opener against Mississippi State in September 2013, Marshall’s miscues loomed just as large as his big yardage numbers through the air.
To that point in his Auburn career, Marshall had completed only a little more than half of his passing attempts, sitting at 37 for 62. And now, down by three points, he had to lead Auburn into scoring range on a drive starting at his own 12-yard line.
What happened next gave Auburn its first SEC win in nearly 23 whole months and put the Tigers on the path to Atlanta for an improbable SEC Championship campaign.
Before anyone really knew what these 2013 Tigers were capable of doing, they showed the close-game prowess that would carry them to some of the most memorable wins in program history.
“Statistically, if you go back, if we lose to them, we always have a terrible year,” center Reese Dismukes said in November 2013, looking back at Auburn’s 24-20 win over Mississippi State in Week 3. “If they lose to us, they have a terrible year. That's always a big one to win.
“That was really the starting point, the foundation for our season.”
Auburn had put up 14 points on its first three drives against Mississippi State in an unconventional way — two field goals and a touchdown that was capped off by Ryan White throwing for a 2-point conversion in the “Batman” package.
Those field goal drives had a lot of sustained offense: 11 plays for 52 yards and 13 plays for 73 yards.
The touchdown was anything but that, with Marshall dropping the snap on third-and-7 before scrambling and finding a wide-open Quan Bray for a 76-yard touchdown that was aided by a Mississippi State defender falling down.
Things wouldn’t be nearly as easy for Auburn’s offense after that. Starting with its fourth drive, the Tigers’ possessions went like this: three-and-out, three-and-out, interception, field goal, fumble, four-and-out, interception, punt.
Auburn went from putting up 205 yards and 14 points on its first three drives to just 169 yards and three points on its next eight drives.
So, when Auburn got the ball back with less than two minutes to go, there might not have been a ton of faith in a struggling, turnover-prone offense among the fans inside Jordan-Hare Stadium.
But on the field, things felt different.
“The great thing about our sideline is our guys believed they were going to win,” Malzahn said after the game. “That's half the battle. I think it's a tribute to our team and Nick. He was able to put his mishaps behind him and find a way to lead us to victory.”
How did Marshall and the Tigers finally make some magic happen late? For our Week 3 edition of the 13 For ‘13 series here at The Observer, let’s dive into 2013 Auburn’s 12-play, 88-yard touchdown drive to beat Mississippi State.