2013 had an extraordinary amount of crazy plays. We all know that, and I’m not here to recount all of them. With so many jaw-dropping game-winners, though, a plethora of other plays from the middle of games have gone relatively unremembered.
The one we’re talking about today is from the Mississippi State game. You remember that one, right? This was early in the year, before we knew how special this team was going to be. This game would come down to the wire, with Nick Marshall hitting C.J. Uzomah on a stop-and-go route in the corner of the endzone with 10 seconds remaining to win by 4.
Early in the third quarter, though, Auburn was trailing 20-14. Needing a spark against a pretty stout Mississippi State defense, Gus dialed up one of the first RPO’s I ever remember seeing, and I didn’t even recognize it as an RPO until well after the fact. As Nick slid out to his left, the corner who had been playing across Sammie Coates on the play stepped up to stop the run. Seeing that the corner was playing the run, Marshall tried to float one over him to Coates, who was sitting in the open space about 8 yards deep. The defense actually played this well, with the safety coming over the top to cover Sammie had he made the catch.
Instead, Nick’s pass went straight into the hands of the corner, who had jumped to block the pass he had previously not seen coming. In a bit of foreshadowing for later in the year, the tipped ball ended up back in the hands of Marshall, who sped around the outside for 36 yards up the sideline. The play would set up a field goal, getting the Tigers on the board quickly in the second half. Sometimes, the bounces just go your way. For an entire season.
For the keen-eyed among you, this play was the exact same RPO in the Iron Bowl that ended up a touchdown to Sammie.
This play brings back a lot of memories for me, personally. 2013 was my freshman year, and this was my first conference game as a student. After the awful year 2012 had been, my expectations were still extremely low for what this team would be. But this game, between this play and the game-winner to Uzomah, really set the stage for what was to come in that season. I can remember sitting in the endzone, behind this play, and seeing Marshall get seemingly cornered before trying to toss up a prayer pass that got batted down. The next thing anyone knew, he was off to the races. A bit of a metaphor for 2013, don’t you think?