SEC Media Days: Auburn feeling ‘good pressure’

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, whose team won the SEC last season, was the first coach to speak on Monday. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, whose team won the SEC last season, was the first coach to speak on Monday. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

By Logan Lowery

Daily Journal

HOOVER, Ala. – Last season, Auburn watched its national championship aspirations evaporate as Florida State scored with 13 seconds remaining to claim the title in a 34-31 victory.

It was usually the Tigers rallying for a late win in 2013. Auburn went 12-2 with six wins coming by eight points or less. Four times the Tigers scored the winning touchdown in the final 1:19 of play.

“Last year we weren’t on anybody’s radar,” said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn. “We snuck up on a lot of people. This year we know we’ll be circled. We’ve talked about that with our players but at the same time I feel like that’s good pressure. We’ve got our program back to where it should be.”

The first of those four late comebacks came in week three against Mississippi State. The Bulldogs led 20-14 until Auburn orchestrated a 12-play, 88-yard drive in the final 1:56 of the game.

Quarterback Nick Marshall completed 6 of 8 passes on the game-winning drive against the Bulldogs secondary. Marshall’s final completion was an 11-yard touchdown to All-SEC tight end C.J. Uzomah in the right corner of the end zone with 10-seconds remaining to escape with a 24-20 win.

Three weeks later the Tigers also edged Ole Miss 30-22 at home in another highly contested battle. The Rebels scored 16 second half points but were unable to overcome a slow start offensively.

Auburn makes two trips to the Magnolia State this year, facing Mississippi State on Oct. 11 and Ole Miss on Nov. 1.

Marshall absent

Marshall was scheduled to appear at Monday’s SEC Media Day along with center Reese Dismukes and defensive tackle Gabe Wright.

However, Marshall was cited for marijuana possession during a July 11 traffic stop in Reynolds, Ga., that caused the university to cancel his appearance.

“It is a privilege and a reward to be able to represent Auburn here at SEC Media Day,” Malzahn said. “Last Friday, Nick lost that privilege. We have high expectations for our players and specifically our quarterback. He’s the face of our program. Up until last Friday, Nick has been a model student, teammate and citizen. Nick made a mistake and he’s going to have to deal with the consequences.”

Malzahn refused to comment on what the extent of Marshall’s punishment would be.

The rising senior was dismissed from Georgia along with two other teammates as a freshman in 2012 for stealing from another player.

Marshall started 13 games during his first season for the Tigers totaling 3,079 yards of offense and 26 touchdowns.

Sophomore Jeremy Johnson served as Marshall’s backup last season throwing for 422 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions in six games.

logan.lowery@journalinc.com