Marshall lifts Auburn past Mississippi State 24-20
Originally published September 14, 2013 at 9:57 p.m., updated September 14, 2013 at 11:21 p.m.
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Auburn's Nick Marshall has thrown the pass regularly in practice, often with poor results.
This time, Marshall was close to perfect on the final play and the game-winning drive.
The junior college tranfsfer hit tight end C.J. Uzomah in the right corner of the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown with 10 seconds left to lift the Tigers to a 24-20 victory over Mississippi State on Saturday night, ending the Tigers' 10-game Southeastern Conference losing streak.
Marshall led the Tigers (3-0, 1-0 SEC) 88 yards in the final 1:56 to polish off easily his best game.
"I've worked on that route every day since fall camp," said Marshall, adding that the ball often goes out of bounds or falls short. "I knew we had the game won after that (the completion). It was excellent, our first SEC win. It was a great moment."
The junior-college transfer completed his first five passes for 55 yards and ran 11 yards on 3rd-and-10.
The play was reviewed and instant replay officials ruled that the 6-foot-4 Uzomah was pushed out of bounds, enabling him to come back.
Uzomah called it "the most exciting and unbelievable moment in my football career. I grew up dreaming about it, and it happened."
Subbing for an injured Tyler Russell for a second straight game, quarterback Dak Prescott ran for 133 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 213 for Mississippi State (1-2, 0-1). Russell sustained a concussion in the opener against Oklahoma State and wasn't medically cleared to play, coach Dan Mullen said.
"We did not finish," Mullen said. "I mean, it is a pretty simple deal. We had the opportunity to finish on offense and did not do it. We had the opportunity to finish on defense and did not do it. That is coaching. That is on me. That is on all our assistant coaches, on our defensive staff and on our offensive staff to make sure we have kids in a situation prepared to go finish a game and we did not."
With the game on the line, Marshall suddenly looked like anything but a guy who's had six weeks to learn an offense.
He hit freshman Marcus Davis on three straight passes to cover 29 yards, then had a 17-yarder to Jaylon Denson. He also salvaged short gains with a couple of runs before heading out of bounds.
Tre Mason's 3-yard run pushed it to the 11 before Auburn called timeout with 15 seconds left.
Marshall was 23-of-34 passing for 339 yards and two touchdowns but was intercepted twice. He passed for just 246 yards and two TDs in his first two games as starter combined.
"He looked fairly natural there," Malzahn said. "He was making all the reads. I don't know if he threw a bad ball on that drive. "
Marshall also showed a knack for turning potential miscues into big plays. He dropped the shotgun snap, collected it on the bounce and hit a wide-open Quan Bray downfield for a 76-yard touchdown on the opening drive. Ryan White then hit Brandon Fulse for the two-point conversion.
In the third quarter, Marshall caught his own batted pass and raced for a 37-yard gain. The Bulldogs forced the Tigers to settle for Cody Parkey's 47-yard field goal after Jamerson Love tackled Corey Grant for a loss.
Parkey also had a 40-yarder and 19-yarder.
The Bulldogs were able to keep in check Auburn tailbacks Grant, Tre Mason and Cameron Artis-Payne, who had been the strength of the offense.
Prescott completed 15 of 28 passes and carried 22 times. LaDarius Perkins gained 36 yards after he was one of seven starters held out of a route of FCS team Alcorn State.
Prescott said he didn't find out for sure he was starting until not long before kickoff.
"I kind of felt it all week, but it was right before the game when I found out," he said.
Mullen gambled on fourth-and-2 from his own 29 late, and Prescott delivered with a 3-yard gain. That enabled the Bulldogs to burn off another two minutes before punting, though they couldn't get another first down.
It proved just enough time for the Tigers.
Mississippi State twice forced turnovers in Auburn territory in the second half, but failed to produce points both times.
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