Auburn football: Tigers looking for better pass protection against 'aggressive' Georgia defense

rblack@ledger-enquirer.comNovember 13, 2013 

Auburn vs Arkansas

Nick Marshall gears up to pass during the first half of its game against Arkansas on Nov. 2. The Tigers have thrown the ball just 16 times in the past two weeks, but head coach Gus Malzahn is looking for better pass protection in this Saturday's game against Georgia. Todd Van Emst

TODD J. VAN EMST — Todd J. Van Emst

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn has passed for more yards than it has run for just twice this season.

That came in back-to-back games in September, versus conference foes Mississippi State and LSU. Since then, the Tigers have been on such a rushing tear the passing game has been an afterthought. In the past two weeks alone, starting quarterback Nick Marshall has had to put the ball in the air just 15 times. Should the Tigers have to pass more this weekend against Georgia, Gus Malzahn said protecting Marshall means everything.

It’s takes on added importance, Malzahn said, given the Bulldogs’ ability to rush the passer, as their 26 sacks this year are second-most in the SEC.

“They’ve got a bunch of long, fast, aggressive guys and they’re one of the best teams in the league at getting after the quarterback,” Auburn’s head coach said Wednesday. “So we’re going to have to do a better job than we’ve done.”

Malzahn took special care to note that while many may think pass protection is solely the offensive line’s responsibility, that assumption couldn’t be more wrong.

“Really, it’s offensive line, it’s running backs, fullbacks, quarterbacks — it’s all the above,” he said.

And despite Marshall’s lack of pass attempts in recent weeks, Malzahn was confident his junior signal-caller has improved in the areas that needed work, notably his touch on deep throws.

“It's really about timing and his footwork, and he's worked extremely hard on that, him and (offensive coordinator) Coach (Rhett) Lashlee,” Malzahn said. “You can see he's starting to get more comfortable each practice. So that'll be a good thing as we end this (season).”

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