Marshall's Law: Auburn Exploits Arkansas' Defense
A new year, but the same old story.
The Auburn Tigers opened their 2014 season on Saturday in the same fashion that concluded their 2013 season. Second-year head coach Gus Malzahn had his offense clicking, not missing a beat from the Tigers' championship season ago. Auburn continued its dominant ways on the ground, producing 302 yards with 177 yards from senior Cameron Artis-Payne and 87 yards from classmate Corey Grant.
The buzz and speculation throughout spring and summer was that Malzahn would have more of a balanced attack with the Tigers' new additions on the outside. Auburn's receivers showed up against Arkansas as the Tigers totaled 293 total yards through the air, a marked improvement over last year's stunted aerial attack. Quarterback Jeremy Johnson started and played well, but Auburn's offense really took to its' own when Nick Marshall took over in the second half.
While Johnson finished 12-for-16 passing for 243 yards and two TDs, it was how he showed that he can not only take over a game that highlighted Auburn's game script. The Tigers looked like SEC, and national championship, contenders with Johnson taking the snaps.
After sitting out the first half as punishment for his July citation of possessing a small amount of marijuana, the returning SEC championship quarterback did not take any time in getting back to where he left off last season. With the game tied at 21, Marshall did what he does best – score on a 19-yard TD run. His numbers were not gaudy (4-for-6 for 50 yards), but his eight carries for 34 yards and ability to find the end zone is what keeps defenses on their heels. Johnson spelled the difference in exploiting Arkansas' second-half defense.
Auburn's offense will continue to gel as Marshall conducts his law week by week – and having newcomer Duke Williams reeling in nine catches for 154 yards will only help depict Marshall's law in leading Auburn to become the first team to win back-to-back SEC championships since Tennessee in 1997-98.