CFN Take: Auburn Loses Shootout To Alabama
Posted Nov 29, 2014

2014 Auburn Tigers: Head coach Gus Malzahn

Auburn Tigers

2014 Schedule
Record: 8-4

Aug. 30 Arkansas W 45-21
Sep. 6 San Jose State W 59-13
Sep. 18 at Kansas St W 20-14
Sep. 27 Louisiana Tech W 45-17
Oct. 4 LSU W 41-7
Oct. 11 at Miss State L 38-23
Oct. 25 South Carolina W 42-35
Nov. 1 at Ole Miss W 35-31
Nov. 8 Texas A&M L 41-38
Nov. 15 at Georgia L 34-7
Nov. 22 Samford W 31-7
Nov. 29 at Alabama L 55-44
Nov. 29 at Alabama 55, Auburn 44
And You Care Because … In the highest scoring Iron Bowl ever, Auburn had Alabama in trouble in the third quarter up 33-21 on a Nick Marshall five-yard pass to Quan Bray, and then Amari Cooper went off. The star receiver caught touchdown passes from 39 and 75 yards out, after catching a 17-yarder in the first half, as the Crimson Tide scored 28 straight points to take control. Auburn had to get more aggressive after Daniel Carlson hit three field goals in the first 19 minutes, and that’s when the offense exploded, but through the air with Nick Marshall throwing three touchdown passes including bombs to Sammie Coates from 34 and 68 yards away. Blake Sims had a rocky time early, throwing three interceptions, but he wasn’t pulled, worked with Cooper, and the Tide rolled.
What Else? Alabama WR Amari Cooper caught 13 passes for 224 yards and three scores. Blake Sims completed 20-of-27 passes for 312 yards and four touchdowns with three picks and ran five times for 23 yards and a touchdown
- Auburn QB Nick Marshall completed 27-of-43 passes for 456 yards and three touchdowns with a pick
- Auburn WR Sammie Coates caught five passes for 206 yards and two scores
- Total yards: Auburn 630 – Alabama 539
Game Rating: A-

Nov. 22 at Auburn 31, Samford 7
And You Care Because … It wasn’t an explosive game for the Tigers, but there weren’t any problems after a rocky start. Samford scored first on a seven-yard Tony Philpot catch in the second quarter, but it was all Auburn the rest of the way with 31 unanswered points with Cameron Artis-Payne running for a seven-yard score, Quan Bray taking off for a 23-yard touchdown and Corey Grant taking a Nick Marshall pass 13 yards for a score. Roc Thomas ran for a one-yard touchdown for the Tigers in the fourth.
What Else? Auburn QB Nick Marshall completed 11-of-18 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown with a pick
- Auburn RB Cameron Artis-Payne ran 24 times for 129 yards and a score
- Samford QB Michael Eubank completed 15-of-29 passes for 125 yards and a score with two picks
- Penalties: Auburn 8 for 76 yards – Samford 2 for 16 yards
Game Rating: D

Nov. 15 at Georgia 34, Auburn 7
And You Care Because … Auburn started out the scoring on the opening drive, getting a 26-yard touchdown run from Cameron Artis-Payne, and then it was all Georgia and all about the running game, as Nick Chubb ran for touchdowns from nine and 11 yards out, and in his return, Todd Gurley tore off a three-yard touchdown dash as part of 34 unanswered points. The Auburn offense was shut down cold after the opening drive, coming up with just 222 yards the rest of the way with three turnovers. Marshall Morgan added two field goals and Malcolm Mitchell came up with a seven-yard touchdown catch.
What Else? Georgia RB Nick Chubb ran 19 times for 144 yards and two touchdowns and caught two passes for a team-leading 48 yards, and Todd Gurley, before leaving in the fourth with a knee injury, ran 29 times for 138 yards and a score
- Auburn QB Nick Marshall completed 11-of-23 passes for 112 yards and an interception, and ran nine times for 41 yards
- Georgia LB Amarlo Herrera made 12 tackles with an interception
- Time of possession: Georgia 32:22 – Auburn 27:38
Game Rating: D+

Nov. 8 Texas A&M 41, at Auburn 38
And You Care Because … Auburn was going in for an apparent game-leading late touchdown, but lost a fumble on an exchange. With one last shot and driving deep into Texas A&M territory, it lost the ball on a center snap and the Aggies survived. A&M’s offense exploded early on with 14 first quarter points on a 60-yard touchdown pass to Malcome Kennedy and a 36-yard pass play to Josh Reynolds. Auburn answered with two touchdown runs form Cameron Artis-Payne, but Kyle Allen was at it again with two more touchdown passes including a seven-yarder to Reynolds. A blocked field goal for a touchdown at the end of the first half gave the Aggies a 35-17 lead, but Auburn stormed back in the second half with Nick Marshall running for two touchdowns and hitting Quan Bray for a 31-yard score, but Texas A&M got field goals – and two very big fumble recoveries – to stay ahead.
What Else? Texas A&M QB Kyle Allen completed 19-of-29 passes for 277 yards and four scores with an interception
- Auburn RB Cameron Artis-Payne ran 30 times for 221 yards and two scores
- Total yards: Auburn 582 – Texas A&M 453
- Auburn QB Nick Marshall completed 15-of-21 passes for 219 yards and a score and ran 18 times for 67 yards and two touchdowns
Game Rating: A

Nov. 1 Auburn 35, at Ole Miss 31
And You Care Because … Cameron Artis-Payne ran for a six-yard score to give Auburn the lead with just over ten minutes to play, but Ole Miss appeared to be on the verge of grabbing it back. Bo Wallace found Laquon Treadwell, who was on his way into the end zone when he was tackled awkwardly – suffering a broken leg – and fumbled just before getting in. Auburn recovered, and the defense was able to hang on over the final 35 seconds. Before the injury, Treadwell was having a great night, catching a ten-yard touchdown pass in the back-and-forth game, with Wallace running for a three-yard score and finding Evan Engram for a 50-yard touchdown, but Auburn’s Nick Marshall was sensational, running for two touchdowns and hitting Sammie Coates for a 57-yard touchdown and connecting with Marcus Davis for a 17-yard score.
What Else? Auburn QB Nick Marshall completed 15-of-22 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns, and ran ten times for 50 yards and two scores
- Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace completed 28-of-40 passes for 341 yards and two scores, and ran 14 times for a team-high 61 yards and a score
- Auburn RB Cameron Artis-Payne ran 27 times for 143 yards and a score
- Ole Miss TE Evan Engram caught eight passes for 123 yards and a score, WR Vince Sanders caught six passes for 105 yards, and Laquon Treadwell caught ten passes for 103 yards and a touchdown
Game Rating: A

Oct. 25 at Auburn 42, South Carolina 35
And You Care Because … In a fun and wild shootout, Nick Marshall ran for three touchdowns and threw for another, taking off for scores from 37, four and nine yards out, with his final touchdown dash coming with just over 11 minutes to play to give Auburn the lead. It would be the last score of the game as South Carolina’s final drive was snuffed out by Jonathan Jones’ second interception of the game. Dylan Thompson rocked the Auburn secondary for five touchdown passes including two to Pharoh Cooper from 16 and 51 yards out, but the second scoring play was answered 11 seconds later by the longest run in the Gus Malzahn era for Auburn on a 75-yard Ricardo Louis dash. South Carolina came back with a ten-yard Nick Jones touchdown catch late in the third, but that would be the team’s final score.
What Else? Auburn QB Nick Marshall completed 12-of-14 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown, and ran ten times for 89 yards and three touchdowns
- South Carolina QB Dylan Thompson completed 29-of-50 passes for 402 yards and five touchdowns with three interceptions
- Auburn RB Cameron Artis-Payne ran 25 times for 167 yards and a score, and Ricardo Louis ran three times for 102 yards and a touchdown
- South Carolina WR Pharoh Cooper caught seven passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns
Game Rating: B+

Oct. 11 at Mississippi State 38, Auburn 23
And You Care Because … It was a sloppy, rainy game, but it was all beautiful for Mississippi State as it got up 21-0 in the first quarter on short touchdown runs from Dak Prescott and Josh Robinson, and a 34-yard pass play to De’Runnya Wilson. Auburn turnovers proved costly from start to finish, hanging around with two D’haquille Williams touchdown catches and three Daniel Carlson field goals, but when pushed, Mississippi State came through, with a key defensive stop and scoring runs from Prescott and Williams to stay up. Auburn kept pushing late, but driving, Nick Marshall was picked off for a second time.
What Else? Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott completed 18-of-34 passes for 246 yards and a score with two picks, and he ran 21 times for 121 yards and two touchdowns
- Auburn QB Nick Marshall completed 17-of-25 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions, and let the team with 100 rushing yards on 17 carries
- Rushing yards: Auburn 232 – Mississippi State 223
- Turnovers: Auburn 4 – Mississippi State 4
Game Rating: B+

Oct. 4 at Auburn 41, LSU 7
And You Care Because … Auburn did whatever it wanted getting up 17-0 in the first quarter highlighted by a 56-yard Sammie Coates score and a seven-yard run from Nick Marshall. LSU got its only points on a one-yard Kenny Hilliard run late in the first, but Auburn scored 24 unanswered points with Marshall running for another score and throwing a nine-yard scoring pass to C.J. Uzomah. Daniel Carlson hit field goals from 46 and 52 yards away.
What Else? Third down conversions: Auburn 6-of-12 – LSU 0-of-13
- Auburn QB Nick Marshall completed 14-of-22 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns, and ran 16 times for 119 yards and two scores
- LSU QB Brandon Harris completed 3-of-14 passes for 58 yards, and Anthony Jennings completed 5-of-10 throws for 84 yards
- Auburn WR Sammie Coates caught four passes for 144 yards and a touchdown
Game Rating: D

Sept. 27 at Auburn 45, Louisiana Tech 17
And You Care Because … Auburn’s offense wasn’t always sharp, but the team didn’t have any problems on the way to a 24-0 first half lead helped by two Nick Marshall touchdown passes – with both scores through the air coming in just over a minute - and a five-yard Cameron Artis-Payne run. Quan Bray caught touchdown passes from 44 and 37 yards out, and he put the game well out of reach with a 76-yard punt return for a score. Louisiana Tech RB Kenneth Dixon was held in check, running for just 29 yards, but he scores twice.
What Else? Auburn QB Nick Marshall completed 10-of-17 passes for 166 yards and three scores, and he ran 13 times for 105 yards
- Louisiana Tech QB Cody Sokol completed 20-of-35 passes for 216 yards and an interception
- Auburn WR Quan Bray caught three passes for 91 yards and two scores and returned two punts for 98 yards and a touchdown
- Total yards: Auburn 473 – Louisiana Tech 321
Game Rating: C-

Sept. 18 Auburn 20, at Kansas State 14
And You Care Because … Kansas State missed three field goals and got intercepted in the end zone on a muffed pass, and Auburn needed the help. The Tiger offense sputtered, but it came up with a big touchdown scoring drive late in the first half finished with a 40-yard Ricardo Louis touchdown catch to spark a 17 point scoring run. When needed, AU marched on a long fourth quarter drive finishing up with a nine-yard D’haquille Williams scoring grab for a 20-7 lead. Kansas State answered back with an 11-play scoring drive with Charles Jones getting in from one-yard out on the wildcat, but Auburn ran out the clock.
What Else? Kansas State PK Jack Cantele missed all three field goal attempts from 41, 42 and 22 yards out.
- Kansas State QB Jake Waters completed 24-of-40 passes for 245 yards and two picks, and Curry Sexton caught 11 passes for 121 yards.
- Auburn QB Nick Marshall completed 17-of-31 passes for 231 yards and two scores with a pick, and ran ten times for 46 yards. D’haquille Williams caught eight passes for 110 yards and a score.
- Rushing yards: Auburn 128 (2.8-yard average) – Kansas State 40 (1.3-yard average)
Game Rating: B+

Sept. 6 at Auburn 59, San Jose State 13
And You Care Because … Auburn blew open a 7-7 game with 28 straight first half points helped by three touchdown runs from Cameron Artis-Payne and a 55-yard punt return for a score from Quan Bray, San Jose State hit on a big 75-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Ervin early, but could only manage two Austin Lopez field goals the rest of the way finishing with three turnovers and 319 yards of total offense.
What Else? Auburn ran for 358 yards with Cameron Artis-Payne running 16 times for 112 yards and three scores and Nick Marshall running 11 times for 103 yards and a score.
- San Jose State LB Christian Tago made 11 tackles and the team came up with just two tackles for loss.
- Auburn LB Cassanova McKinzy came up with a big game, making ten tackles, but CB Jonathon Mincy and DE Montravius Adams were the stars combining for 13 tackles with five tackles for loss and two sacks.
- Auburn averaged 7.2 yards per carry and San Jose State averaged 1.4 yards per try.
Game Rating: D+

Aug. 30 at Auburn 45, Arkansas 21
And You Care Because … Auburn exploded in the second half with 24 unanswered points. Nick Marshall came off his suspension and immediately led the team on a scoring drive with a 19-yard touchdown run to cap it off. The Tiger defense swarmed with Jermaine Whitehead coming up with a 33-yard pick six as the Arkansas offense went cold. The two teams traded shots in the first half with Auburn’s Jeremy Johnson throwing two touchdown passes while the Hogs got two Brandon Allen scoring throws and a six-yard run from Jonathan Williams.
What Else? The Tiger offense showed a tremendous combination of power, explosion, speed and depth. The running game worked as expected with Carmon Artis-Payne looking great with 178 yards and a score on 26 carries, but with D’haquille Williams, there’s even more of a passing threat catching nine for 154 yards and a score.
- The Arkansas ground game worked, but the Tiger defense kept daring Brandon Allen to throw and loaded up on the line, and the production slowed down. The Hogs averaged 5.3 yards per carry, and Alex Collins, Korliss Marshall and Jonathan Williams were all effective, but once the floodgates opened, the gameplan changed.
- The Tiger defensive back seven was terrific. Cassanova McKinzy came up with six tackles and two tackles for loss with a sack, and Jermaine Whitehead made seven tackles with a pick six.
- It might not seem like it, but Arkansas might be closer to being good than it appears. The running game really did work before halftime, and while the defense struggled against the Auburn offense throughout the game, it’s going to do that against everyone.
Game Rating: B

2014 Preview 

Yeah, there was some element of luck when it came to Auburn's terrific 2013 season.

It took a fortuitous bounce and one of the greatest finishes in college football history to beat Georgia 43-38 to keep SEC title hopes alive.

But the Tigers also put up 566 yards of total offense on the Bulldogs, helped by a fantastic performance from the offensive line.

Of course, it took one of the quirkiest plays and a few missed assignments for the Davis, Davis, Davis miracle to happen against Alabama to win the West and get to the SEC title game.

But the coaching staff had the presence of mind to put Chris Davis deep in the end zone to see if he could make something special happen. Also unfairly lost is the wonderfully executed late drive needed from the TIger offense to tie the score at 28.

Ohio State was off to play Florida State for the BCS championship. All the Buckeyes had to do was beat Michigan State in the Big Ten championship, but they didn’t, and Auburn was able to back its way into the shot at the national title.

But the Tigers did their part by rolling up 545 yards of total offense in an unstoppable 59-42 SEC championship win over Missouri.

There were several big breaks and a few all-timer moments to help make Auburn the biggest surprise of 2013 – going from 3-9 to within a late drive of the national championship – but the team and program made their own good fortune and they put themselves in a position to succeed. If luck really is when preparation meets opportunity, then throw out the whole Team of Destiny idea and give Auburn credit for hiring Gus Malzahn – the great coaching staff with the great scheme had the players in place and put them in a position to succeed.

You don’t luck into close to 4,600 rushing yards and 48 touchdowns a year after running for 1,781 yards and 16 scores, and you certainly don’t luck your way into an SEC championship.

And now the big question is whether or not Auburn can sustain the success, and if anyone can figure out how to stop the offensive juggernaut.

The defense isn’t going to be anything too special, and while there’s an abundance of promise in a secondary that got torched last year, there will be times when the offense will have to pick up the slack and be unstoppable.

No problems there.

How do you get better by losing a Heisman-caliber running back like Tre Mason and an NFL franchise blocker in Greg Robinson? The Tigers appear ready to do it with quarterback Nick Marshall returning, a great line to work behind, more outstanding running backs ready to go, and a few interesting new parts – like JUCO transfer receiver D’haquille Williams – to keep the nation's 11th-best offense and No. 1 rushing attack rolling.

No. you don’t get the same breaks twice, and Auburn won’t have the special plays that made 2013 so special, but it’ll have to settle for execution and performance to get the job done.

Just like it did last year.

What to watch for on offense: More of the same, and even more of that. Don’t think for a second that the offseason and the loss of Tre Mason and Greg Robinson will slow things down. If anything, the coaching staff and the attack appeared to be even stronger and more confident since the loss to Florida State. Nick Marshall is now a proven big game performer, the blocking scheme is terrific, there are plenty of fantastic backs to pick up the slack for Mason, and the receiving corps could explode with bit more of an emphasis on the passing game and with all the key parts back. Throw in the addition of super-recruit D’haquille Williams from the JUCO ranks, and the offense could and should be more diverse, more creative, and even more effective.

What to watch for on defense: The secondary has to hold its own. To be fair, most teams had to bomb away to try keeping up the pace with the Auburn offense, and the Tiger secondary had to deal with the Washington State all-pass attack, Johnny Manziel, Aaron Murray, AJ McCarron, James Franklin and Jameis Winston, but the pass defense has to be stronger. Auburn allowed 300 yards or more five times and was bombed on by Manziel for 469 yards and Murray for 415. Chris Davis is gone after an all-star season, but the secondary overall has the potential to be far better helped by rising-star safety Derrick Moncrief from the JUCO ranks and with Jonathon Mincy and Jermaine Whitehead two of the team’s better defenders. It’ll also help that the quarterbacks on the schedule don’t appear to be anything too special, at least right off the bat – expect the overall numbers to be better.

The team will be far better if… Nick Marshall stays healthy. Auburn can do big things this season with its running game, talented defense, and schemes on both sides of the ball, but it probably can’t realistically compete for the SEC and national championships unless No. 14 is the one leading the way. That’s not to say that backup Jeremy Johnson can’t play – he’s going to eventually be a superstar in this offense with the size and skills to be outstanding – but for right now, Marshall knows how to run the attack perfectly and is improving enough as a passer to be a Heisman-caliber weapon. Great last year, Marshall appears to be on the verge of being truly special. If he is, Auburn will be, too.

The Schedule: If the offense is humming as expected, there shouldn't be any problems early on. Starting out the year against Arkansas will be a great test, and San Jose State could be interesting with nine starters returning on defense. And then comes the curveball, going off to Kansas State for an interesting non-conference date. Taking care of LSU at home is a must, but at the end of a rough stretch, and coming off the date with the Tigers, going to Mississippi State could be a trap.

There's a week off to rest up and prepare for South Carolina, but that's only the beginning with at Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Georgia to follow before finally getting a break against Samford. Will the week off be enough to be ready for the revenge game at Alabama? There's not a game on the slate the Tigers can't handle - it'll be all about getting through the first 11 games with just one loss before dealing with the Crimson Tide.

Best offensive player: Senior QB Nick Marshall. It’s easy to forget that Jonathan Wallace and Kiehl Frazier were supposed to be the main men in the mix for the starting quarterback job when the new coaching staff took over, but it was a JUCO transfer from Garden City CC who took the gig by the horns and was fantastic. It’s easy to focus on his passing and the goal to improve, but he’s already a terrific thrower when he needs to be. No, he might not be Peyton Manning, but he’s an efficient passer who knows how to keep the chains moving. Of course, he’s at his most dangerous when he’s on the move and taking off as a crafty and effective runner. He’s not Jameis Winston when in front of a microphone, but he’ll be every bit as effective.

Best defensive player: Junior LB Cassanova McKinzy. Safeties Robenson Therezie, Jermaine Whitehead and Derrick Moncrief are all going to have big years in their various roles, and Gabe Wright should own the defensive interior, but it’s McKinzy who should once again be one of the team’s best all-around defenders after leading the way last year with 75 tackles. With excellent size and great athleticism, he looks the part for the weakside with good toughness and a great burst. Versatile, he can play anywhere in the linebacking corps.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore OT Shon Coleman. No one’s expecting him to step in right away and be another Greg Robinson, but one of the biggest keys to last year’s success was having a superstar NFL prospect paving the way when needed. Whether it’s Coleman, or Avery Young, or Patrick Miller, the Tigers need production at left tackle, and they could use a star. The line will undergo some reshuffling, and it all starts with what happens with the guy who’ll have the most to do with protecting Marshall.

The season will be a success if ... the Tigers get into College Football Playoff. Of course they want to win the SEC title again, but that doesn’t really matter so much in the new world – it’s all about being ranked in the top four. If Auburn repeats as SEC champs, it’ll almost certainly find its way into the fun, but it could stand to lose one game along the way and still get in. With the team returning, and the not-that-bad schedule, 11-1 isn’t asking for too much. Alabama almost certainly would’ve gotten into a playoff last year, even with the loss to Auburn at the end of the regular season. It wouldn’t be shocking if that happened the other way this year.

Key game: Nov. 1 at Ole Miss. Again, barring something big from three other teams, Auburn can get into the playoff and have a shot at the national title by going 11-0 and losing to Alabama, but still, the Iron Bowl is always the key game – of course. But if the Tigers can take care of business at home against LSU, South Carolina and Texas A&M, the dangerous landmines are at Mississippi State and at Ole Miss. The Georgia showdown in Athens will be among the most hyped games of the year, but the battle with the Rebels might fly under the radar after the Tigers have to face South Carolina. Ole Miss has the make-up and the talent to screw up the AU season.

2013 Fun Stats:
- Sacks: Auburn 32 for 223 yards – Opponents 18 for 121 yards
- Rushing Yards: Auburn 328.3 yards – Opponents 162.1 yards
- Fumbles: Auburn 30 (lost 11) – Opponents 16 (lost 6)

- 2014 Auburn Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players

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