"If [Auburn] 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."
Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday was very critical of Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall following the Cougars' 31-24 loss to the Tigers Aug. 31. When speaking to The Spokesman-Review, he didn't think Auburn could reach the pinnacle of the Southeastern Conference with Marshall at the helm.
Four months later, Auburn is a top-five team. The Tigers are No. 2 in college football with a berth in the final BCS National Championship Game.
Guess what? Marshall is still receiving snaps as the starting quarterback, and he's pretty good.
Utilizing first-year head coach Gus Malzahn's zone-read option running game, Marshall has posted 1,759 yards passing with 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. The junior also ran for 1,023 yards and 11 touchdowns, averaging 6.6 yards per carry.
Marshall completed 60.4 percent of his passes and posted a 144 quarterback rating this season. Not bad for a guy who can't throw it, right?
Marshall was inconsistent at first; he missed many open targets on opening day against the Cougars but has improved every game in this 12-1 season. Marshall completed 66 percent of his passes against Georgia, Alabama and Missouri.
"I'm telling you, Nick has great arm ability," Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said Dec. 10. "He can throw the deep ball well, throw on the move and make plays. I think you're seeing each time he gets a little better and it's going to be a continual process. The strides he's made from Game 1 where he dropped the first snap to the SEC Championship Game I think are a great tribute to him and his work ethic and his ability to be coachable."
While we're focused on the Washington State quarterback's quote, he was also correct on a different Auburn aspect: the running game is "very, very impressive."
Auburn led the SEC in rushing attempts (676), yards (4,364) yards per carry (6.5) touchdowns (46) and yards per game (335.7). Auburn tailback and Heisman finalist Tre Mason led the SEC in rushing with 1,621 yards, 436 yards more than the second-place runner Jeremy Hill of LSU.
But one day Auburn will recruit a quarterback who can throw.
Kidding, kidding. See you in California.