The Nick Marshall era for Auburn football kicked off on Saturday night on the Plains, but it wasn't the start the coaching staff and fans were looking for.
Sure, Auburn beat Washington State 31-24, but junior college quarterback Marshall was far from the dynamic playmaker he was touted to be during fall camp.
Marshall completed 10 of 19 passes for 99 yards in addition to rushing nine times for 27 yards.
The good news is that he didn't throw a pick or fumble, which is a departure from his junior college norm. The bad news is that he didn't find the end zone through the air or on the ground, and was inconsistent in the passing game.
According to Christian Caple of The Spokesman-Review, Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday tabbed Marshall as the problem rather than part of the solution.
“They ran the ball real, real, real well,” Halliday said. “If they could find a quarterback, they’d be a top-five team in the nation. They just don’t have a guy who can throw it. That running game was something very, very impressive.”
Ouch, that's harsh.
Time to hit the panic button?
Marshall needs to calm down in the pocket. He showed off his big arm early, letting loose a 67-yard bomb with relative ease on the first drive of the game. One problem, though: It was 10 yards past wide receiver Sammie Coates.
It wasn't Coates' fault. He'd need a motorcycle to get downfield that fast.
Marshall's problem was apparent from the moment he took the field. He has a big arm, but can't take anything off. Sure, receivers dropped some passes that hit them in the hands, but when they're coming like a Justin Verlander fastball, it's a bit of a problem.
Chalk it up to rust, first-game nerves or a combination of the two.
Marshall switched back to quarterback last season at Garden City (Kan.) Community College after playing defensive back at Georgia in 2011. Some growing pains should be expected.
You know, there were a couple things communication wise we'll get better on but overall I liked the way he handled himself. He protected the football and that's hard to do. They were showing him a lot of different looks and trying to disguise some things but he protected the football.
Was it the type of debut Auburn fans wanted? Probably not. Marshall clearly has tremendous upside, but is far from polished.
As the old cliche goes, a team improves the most between Weeks 1 and 2. If Auburn is going to be competitive in the SEC West, it needs Marshall to avoid being the exception to that rule this weekend against Arkansas State.
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