The fumble return gave Missouri the lead and all the momentum, and Marshall knew he had to settle down.
“He was just telling me when I run the football, I can’t be carrying it loose,” Marshall said. “After he told me, I locked the ball up.”
Marshall didn’t fumble the ball the rest of the game. Instead, he ran 16 times for 101 yards and a touchdown and completed 9 of 11 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown.
“He has great leadership,” running back Corey Grant said.. “When the times get tough, he just picks us up and keeps us focused. … When the season first started, he didn’t say much, but as the season’s gone on and his role’s gotten bigger, he’s started to talk a lot more. Even after the turnovers, he kept telling us to keep fighting.”
His season totals are up to 1,759 yards and 12 touchdowns passing, 1,023 yards and 11 touchdowns rushing. More importantly, he’s a player his teammates trust in big situations no matter what he has done earlier in the game.
“Nick is a great quarterback,” said wide receiver Sammy Coates, who led Auburn with six catches for 94 yards and a score. “He kept saying he’d make up for (the fumbles). We’re just glad he’s on our team. We’re so thankful for his leadership. He’s brought us a long way this season.
Breaking Mizzou's will
The SEC Championship Game saw its record book undergo major revisions Saturday night.
Auburn and Missouri combined for 101 points, with Auburn taking credit for 59 of them. That came after the teams put 55 points on the scoreboard — with Auburn edging Missouri by a single point, 28-27 — in the first half. The total in the first 30 minutes Saturday’s game was more than the combined score of 15 previous editions of the conference championship contest.
Eventually, Auburn finally put the game away, with Tre Mason’s final score — a 13-yard touchdown run with 4:22 to play — putting the finishing touches on the victory.
Auburn believed it had broken the will of Missouri’s defense far before the final touchdown, though.
“I think third quarter, we really had a few long runs and drives that we were finishing hard,” tight end C.J. Uzomah said. “We looked over during one of the TV timeouts and saw them catching their breath, gasping for breath. We were like, ‘We have this.’ We just have to keep pounding the ball, keep pacing them.”
Fullback Jay Prosch agreed. He said it was an “incredible” experience being part of the highest-scoring SEC title game of all-time, and gave credit to both offenses.
So how did Auburn’s emerge as the superior unit?
“I just think it came down to who wanted it more,” Prosch said. “It showed that we did. I just think physically, our offense wore down their defense.”
Parkey's big kick
Cody Parkey knew his 52-yard field goal in the third quarter was a career best effort. After all, before that, his best showing had been “40-something.”
But he wasn’t aware that the kick was the longest ever made in an SEC Championship game. Afterward, he said he was “proud” to have that honor.
He was even more pleased head coach Gus Malzahn let him try another long kick, after his first field goal — a 54-yard effort in the opening period — was no good.
“Coach Malzahn trusts me to make those kicks and that’s something I got to do,” he said. “I knew after I missed that first one I had to come back and make that long second one. I’m glad I was able to hit one.”
The wayward first quarter kick, which sailed wide right, had the distance.
So what happened?
“I hit it pretty good, but I kind of left my hips open and it went a little right,” he said. “But I corrected it on the second one and was able to put it right down the pike.”
Jermaine Whitehead came away with an interception with an interception Saturday night, which turned out to be Missouri’s only turnover.
All Auburn’s junior safety could think about afterward, however, was that he had a chance at two more and didn’t snag either of them.
“I should have capitalized on the other two,” he said. “I’m going to go back and watch them and do whatever I can to make those plays. I missed out on a couple of those this year. It gives me a lot of motivation for next year, though.”
Still, he was pleased he was able to take advantage of a mistake by Missouri quarterback James Franklin in the second quarter, as he made a diving catch at Auburn’s 25-yard line.
“I think the quarterback threw a bad pass to his receiver,” Whitehead said. “His receiver had run a route across the middle and he threw it behind him and put it right in my lap.”