Auburn's Nick Marshall overcomes early fumbles

dmitchell@ledger-enquirer.comDecember 7, 2013 

ATLANTA -- Auburn legend Bo Jackson had a talk with quarterback Nick Marshall on the sideline following his third fumble of the first half, which was picked up and returned to the end zone by Missouri.

The fumble return gave Missouri the lead and all the momentum, and Marshall knew he had to settle down.

"He was just telling me when I run the football, I can't be carrying it loose," Marshall said of Jackson's guidance. "After he told me, I locked the ball up."

Marshall didn't fumble the ball the rest of the game. Instead, he ran 16 times for 101 yards and a touchdown and completed 9 of 11 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown.

The numbers pale in comparison to those of running back Tre Mason, whose 46 carries for 304 yards and four touchdowns will go down as arguably the greatest game in SEC championship history, but they showed his resiliency and progression as a leader in his first year as Auburn's starter under center.

Overall, the offense compiled 677 yards of total offense and 545 on the ground, both SEC championship game records.

They were perfect on red-zone scoring chances (7 of 7), and it was the third time Auburn surpassed 50 points in a game this season.

"He has great leadership," running back Corey Grant said."When the times get tough, he just picks us up and keeps us focused. … When the season first started, he didn't say much, but as the season's gone on and his role's gotten bigger, he's started to talk a lot more. Even after the turnovers, he kept telling us to keep fighting."

The Jekyll-and-Hyde start came after his name emerged in Heisman conversations this week following the team's big win over Alabama in the Iron Bowl.

That distinction now belongs to Mason, but the team's future may rest more heavily on Marshall's shoulders.

The quarterback has proven to be up to the task.

His season totals are up to 1,759 yards and 12 touchdowns passing, 1,023 yards and 11 touchdowns rushing.

More importantly, he's a player his teammates trust in big situations no matter what he has done earlier in the game.

"Nick is a great quarterback," said wide receiver Sammy Coates, who led Auburn with six catches for 94 yards and a score. "He kept saying he'd make up for (the fumbles).

"We're just glad he's on our team. We're so thankful for his leadership. He's brought us a long way this season.

David Mitchell, Follow David on Twitter@leprepsports.

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