Every time Auburn coach Gus Malzahn was asked about his starting quarterback’s status, he would say only it was “day-to-day.” Marshall injured his throwing shoulder in the previous week’s win over Florida Atlantic.
Saturday night, Marshall showed there was no reason for concern, as he helped the Tigers to their fifth straight victory 35-17 over Arkansas. No, he didn’t reach 100 yards rushing. He didn’t even break the 200-yard barrier in the passing game, either.
But he didn’t have to do any of those things for Auburn to win Saturday, and Malzahn was fine with that.
“Nick is one tough customer”, he said. “We didn’t know, really, he was going to play. We felt like he had a chance on Thursday, but we really didn’t know for sure he was going to start until we got here, saw him throw in the pregame and all that. ... I think his toughness carried over to our team, especially offensively.”
Marshall finished with 177 total yards (118 passing, 59 rushing), with a large chunk of his portion through the air coming on a single play.
The junior hit sophomore receiver Sammie Coates down the right sideline for an 88-yard scoring strike. While he didn’t put up eye-opening numbers in terms of touchdowns or yardage, Marshall was coldly efficient, completing 87.5 percent of his attempts (7-for-8).
Video dispute continues
Bret Bielema made headlines Monday when he said the film Auburn provided didn’t match the television copy. Malzahn responded to the accusations the following day, and the two met for a brief handshake at midfield before kickoff.
But the drama was far from over.
After the Tigers scored their first touchdown, they lined up in the disputed “Batman” formation — an unbalanced “swinging gate” look— before reverting into their normal extra-point configuration.
The Razorbacks raised the stakes on the final play of the third quarter, as they lined up in a “swinging gate formation” as well, picking up 7 yards on a third down to set up a first-and-goal at the Tigers’ 2-yard line.
Malzahn refused to read too much into Arkansas’ play call, simply deeming it a “good play.”
“I almost called timeout and I was kind of kicking myself that I didn’t call it before,” he said. “It was a well-executed play.”
Backup quarterback Jeremy Johnson got in for three plays Saturday night, coming on consecutive plays in the third period.
On his first, he connected with Coates on a 16-yard pass before handing off to Mason twice for his final action of the game.
Senior defensive end Dee Ford had to be helped off the field by teammates after the final play of the contest.
He said he tweaked his left knee — the same one that caused him to miss the first two games of the season — but showed up to postgame interviews, saying he would be “fine” going forward.
Miller back in uniform
Auburn offensive lineman Patrick Miller dressed out Saturday, marking the first time he has done so since the Ole Miss game. The sophomore started the first five games of the season at right tackle, but has missed the past three contests with an undisclosed off-field issue. But despite his return, Miller didn’t reclaim his spot in the starting lineup, as Avery Young worked the first-team offense for the third straight game.
Late in the fourth quarter, however, Miller entered the game at left tackle.
Meanwhile, tight end Brandon Fulse, who has been handling an off-field (and unknown) issue of his own, was not in uniform.
Auburn will play at Tennessee on Saturday, with ESPN providing coverage for the 11 a.m. game.
The Vols are 4-5 with only one win in the conference — that puzzling win over South Carolina. They’re coming off back-to-back losses to Alabama 45-10 and Missouri 31-3.
Auburn has won five straight in the series and hasn’t lost to Tennessee since 1999.