Auburn vs. Texas A&M: Does Nick Marshall Give Tigers Shot at Upset?
Nick Marshall is back.
The junior quarterback is set to start this Saturday as the Tigers travel to Texas A&M, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn confirmed Wednesday.
"Looks like he's back to normal," Malzahn said Wednesday, via Alex Byington of the Opelika-Auburn News.
Marshall was forced to sit out during the Tigers' 62-3 drubbing of Western Carolina on homecoming last Saturday, sidelined due to an apparent knee injury he suffered a week earlier against Ole Miss.
Now, as Malzahn says, Marshall is "back to normal"—and for Marshall, "normal" has been pretty good as of late.
Through five games, Marshall is 71-of-120 through the air with four touchdowns and four interceptions, adding another 336 yards and two more touchdowns on the ground.
The first-year starter is coming off perhaps his best performance of the season, which came during that 30-22 win over Ole Miss on Oct. 5. That night, Marshall finished with a combined total of 238 yards offensively with two rushing touchdowns while finishing 11-of-17 with no interceptions through the air.
"(He) just continues to get better," Malzahn said. "He had the week off, but at the same time, he had a very good game the week before. It's just a matter of building. You can tell he's more comfortable each week with everything within our system."
Marshall's return certainly warrants a sigh of relief from Auburn fans. With their starting quarterback back behind center, the No. 24 Tigers would appear to be close to full strength offensively heading into this weekend's matchup against the seventh-ranked Aggies in College Station.
Auburn is going to need that offense at full speed Saturday, as the Tigers attempt to outscore Texas A&M and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel.
It took No. 1 Alabama 49 points to beat the Aggies, 49-42, earlier this season.
"It's a lot (of pressure) because as an offense, you know they're going to put up points, and you have to match their points just as good," Auburn running back Corey Grant said Sunday. "So for us to help our defense out is going to be a big part."
With Marshall back in the fold, the Tigers have a shot at rolling into College Station and pulling off the upset.
Well, they have a better shot than the alternative, at least.
Last week with Marshall out of action, Auburn turned to Jeremy Johnson to make the start on homecoming. Johnson played well against the Western Carolina defense and showed Tigers fans a lot of promise for the future—but stepping onto the turf at Kyle Field on Saturday would have been a completely different challenge for the true freshman.
Luckily for Auburn fans, Marshall was back taking snaps at practice with the first team as early as Sunday.
"He got to go out there and take every rep, take every drop, make every throw," Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said Sunday. "If we ran a read zone or anything like that, he was able to do all those things. I would expect him to be able to get all the reps he needs this week with the specific game plan so, hopefully, that will help keep any rust away."
Marshall dressed out and warmed up with the team last Saturday against Western Carolina but did not see any action. He was not wearing a knee brace or any visible tape or wrap.
This week, he is expected to be at full speed against Texas A&M.
"Probably going into the game, Nick was around 80 percent," Lashlee said. "We dressed him. He was available in an emergency role.
"But it was just one of those deals where, if you could give him an extra week, it would be good."
Justin Lee is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @byjustinlee. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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