Auburn vs. Mississippi State: Gus Malzahn Brings Magic to the Plains in Epic Win
Auburn, Alabama—It had been 686 days since the Auburn Tigers last won an SEC game.
And it had been 714 days since Gus Malzahn coached in an SEC game on an Auburn sideline.
Both of those trends ended Saturday night. Malzahn made his conference debut as Auburn's head coach—and, more importantly, the Tigers snapped a 10-game SEC losing streak, dating back to 2011, when Malzahn was the offensive coordinator on the Plains.
While Malzahn spent a year away at Arkansas State, Auburn went winless in SEC play in 2012.
But Malzahn's magic was back was back in Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday night, as the Tigers came from behind to top Mississippi State, 24-20, thanks to a picture-perfect 88-yard scoring drive engineered by junior quarterback Nick Marshall with just 1:56 to play.
"We talked before the game that it could come down to the end," Malzahn said. "A lot of these games against Mississippi State have. Come down to the end I said, 'Guys we need to find a way to win.' And I'm very proud of the way they did that."
It was the type of thrilling finish that Auburn fans have come to expect when the Tigers are running Malzahn's hurry-up, no-huddle system.
Marshall finished 23-of-34 for 339 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner--an 11-yard strike to tight end C.J. Uzomah in the back of the end zone with 10 seconds left to play in the game.
That play lit up Jordan-Hare Stadium into a frenzy it hasn't seen in quite some time.
"I've never been in an atmosphere like it was in Jordan-Hare tonight," Marshall said post-game. "It's a big atmosphere and I'm just glad to be a part of it."
Marshall did throw his first two interceptions of the season Saturday night, one on a Hail Mary pass to end the first half and another on a tipped ball over the middle.
But Marshall was solid throughout the night, helping pick up the slack for an Auburn running game that finished with just 120 yards on the night.
On the Tigers' game-winning touchdown drive, Marshall accounted for 85 of the 88 yards the Tigers needed to find paydirt.
But Marshall didn't win the game for Auburn on his own. It was a complete team effort by the Tigers—reminiscent of Auburn teams during Malzahn's tenure as offensive coordinator with the Tigers from 2009 to 2011.
"I think going through so much as a team last year, it kind of molded us for this situation," said Auburn defensive back Jermaine Whitehead, who finished with seven tackles and a pass breakup. "We've got to stay on (the offense's) side, and they've got to stay on our side. When we're playing bad, they go out there and get us some points.
"And when we're both clicking, it's a heart attack for somebody."
In the final moments of Saturday night's game, the Tigers were clicking on both sides of the ball, and in the end, Auburn picked up its first SEC victory in nearly two years.
"We did not talk about that one time," Malzahn said of the Tigers' conference losing streak. "We just talked about this year. You know, a new start, a new beginning, a new day, and our guys really bought into it.
"When you win your first SEC game, it gives you great momentum, and I'm really proud of our guys and the way they got that done tonight."
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