Nick Marshall saw it right in front of him.
There it was.
With less than a minute to play in Saturday night's Iron Bowl, Marshall and the Tigers were driving. Tre Mason had just knifed into the Alabama defense once again, picking up his 164th yard of the day.
The Tigers trailed, 28-21, with the clock ticking. Chris Davis' miracle field-goal return—and the ensuing celebration—was still minutes way. First, Auburn had to tie the game late.
Mason's run was his sixth straight of the drive. The Tigers had done nothing but pound through the Crimson Tide line, using the same read-option look each play. Mason's last carry brought the Tigers to the Crimson Tide 39-yard line, to set up a 1st-and-10 with 47 seconds to go.
That's when Marshall saw the Alabama secondary move up and bite.
He snapped his head back to the sideline to look to Gus Malzahn and motioned for his head coach to call the same play again.
Malzahn called the same play. Marshall connected with a wide-open Sammie Coates behind the secondary. Coates strolled into the end zone.
The rest is Iron Bowl history.
"Nick had been looking for it the whole game," Coates said postgame. "He finally got it to me."
The play was a triple option, which allowed Marshall to either give the ball to Mason, pull the ball and keep it himself around left end or—eventually—find Coates over the top after rolling left.
On the previous play, Marshall handed the ball to Mason during the first stage of the play. He noticed the Alabama corners and safeties biting down and crashing on the play, and that's when Marshall turned to his head coach.
"Nick looked at me and said 'Let's run the same play,'" Malzahn said postgame. "He knew what we were thinking—and made a great throw and catch."
As the touchdown play developed, Marshall pulled the ball from Mason's stomach and ran around left end. At the last moment, just before crossing the line of scrimmage, Marshall—who was carrying the ball with his left hand—switched hands, grabbed the ball without the laces and threw a quick shotput pass over the Alabama defenders to a wide-open Coates near the 25-yard line.
"He kind of threw it, flipped it—he just wanted to get it to me," Coates said. "He got it to me."
From there, Coates was able to stroll into the end zone, tying the game at 28-28 with 32 seconds to play—and setting the stage for Davis and a legendary last-second miracle play.
For Coates, his touchdown catch from Marshall was 60 minutes in the making.
"We ran that play the whole game," Coates said. "We were just waiting for them to bite, and they did it at the wrong time."
Justin Lee is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @byjustinlee. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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