Auburn vs Kansas State: Tigers Survive the Little Apple


Sep 18, 2014; Manhattan, KS, USA; Auburn Tigers quarterback Nick Marshall (14) drops back to pass during first-half action against the Kansas State Wildcats at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was far from pretty. But the Auburn Tigers found a way to survive the Little Apple.

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On a third-and-nine play with 2:06 remaining, the Tigers decided to roll the dice and throw for a first down and the win. Nick Marshall completed a 39 yard pass to D’haquille Williams, which allowed Auburn to melt the rest of the clock and escape with a 20-14 victory over the Kansas State Wildcats. There were 53,046 fans on hand for the game, which made it the fifth-largest crowd in Kansas State history.

The gutsy third down call was necessary because Wildcats running back Charles Jones scored from the one yard line with 3:49 left on the clock to close the gap to six points. It showed that head coach Gus Malzahn has confidence in his senior quarterback, but also showed how much Auburn struggled running the football.

Auburn had only 128 rushing yards on 45 carries against a stingy K-State defense. Cameron Artis-Payne led the Tigers with 63 yards on 22 carries, but he did not score for the first time in three games this season. Nick Marshall had 46 yards on ten carries – including a 17-harder – and Corey Grant added 27 yards on six touches.

On the previous drive, Auburn settled for a 25-yard Daniel Carlson field goal, which gave the Tigers 17 consecutive points. Earlier in the fourth quarter, Marshall and Williams connected on a beautiful nine-yard touchdown to give Auburn a 17-7 lead with 14:10 remaining. Williams finished the game with eight catches for 110 yards and the score.

Like they did in 2013, the Auburn defense kept bending and bending, but they were good enough to win. The Wildcats had just 285 yards of total offense on 70 plays, and averaged only 1.3 yards per attempt on 30 carries – for a grand total of 40 rushing yards.

The Tigers held K-State quarterback Jake Waters to 245 passing yards. The senior completed 24 of 40 passes on the night and threw two interceptions – one to Jonathan Jones in the first half, and a second on a very athletic play by Trovon Reed in the second. He came into the game as the Wildcats’ leading rusher, and gained more than 100 yards on the ground in the team’s last game, but Waters had -7 rushing yards on 11 carries. He was also sacked three times and fumbled twice, one of which was recovered by Auburn.

Kris Frost had a great game for the Tigers on defense. The junior had two sacks and six tackles, though Joshua Holsey led the team with 11 total stops on the night. Holsey started the game at safety for senior Jermaine Whitehead, who did not make the trip. Fellow safety Rudy Ford had eight tackles.

Auburn escaped, but Kansas State had plenty of chances to win.

With Auburn set to receive the opening kickoff, the kick sailed out of bounds and the Tigers took possession at the 35-yard line. It didn’t seem like much at the time, but it would be a glimpse into the horrific night for the Kansas State kicking game.

The Tigers’ first drive quickly stalled, and Auburn was forced to punt. Things got hairy when punter Matthew Shiel couldn’t handle the snap and fumbled. Luckily for Auburn, he recovered and had enough time to get the punt off before it was blocked.

Auburn was still able to strike first when Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters fumbled on the Wildcats’ opening drive. Robenson Therezie recovered the fumble and set Auburn up with great field position near the K-State red zone. After three quick plays went nowhere, Carlson hit a 34-yard field goal to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead.

Kansas State took the ball on the following drive – and took their time marching down to the one-yard line. Johnathan Jones had given up two pass interference penalties on the drive, and Tyler Lockett had two catches, but a quick slant in the end zone hit the All-American’s hands and flew into the air where Jones was waiting. Auburn got a huge break and took over at the 20-yard line.  

After an Auburn punt, the Kansas State offense took control and drove into field goal range. However, the Wildcats missed a 41-yard field goal after the Auburn defense bent but didn’t break.

The Wildcats finally tacked points onto the scoreboard with less than five minutes remaining in the half. Tyler Lockett set up the drive with a long punt return that gave Kansas State good field position. After a 57-yard drive, DeMarcus Robinson scored on a short touchdown run and gave the Wildcats a 7-3 lead.

Nick Marshall struggled early in the first half for Auburn. He completed just six of his first 14 passes for 64 yards and was intercepted when a second quarter pass was knocked into the air at the line of scrimmage and secured by the Wildcats.

However, following the Wildcats’ touchdown, Marshall orchestrated a scoring drive that ended with a 40-yard touchdown to Ricardo Louis. On the throw, Marshall had to stay in the pocket and take a hit, but delivered a strike to Louis. The junior broke a tackle and raced into the end zone and Auburn took the lead again, 10-7. Louis totaled three catches for 55 yards and the TD.

The senior quarterback finished the first half with nine completions on 18 attempts for 118 yards, one touchdown and he was intercepted once. At the end of the night, Marshall was 17-for-31 for 231 yards, two TDs and an interception.

But, Kansas State would not go quietly into the locker room. K-State quarterback Jake Waters led a last minute drive down to the Auburn 14-yard line before a Kris Frost sack and fumble forced the Wildcats to attempt a field goal with 0:04 left on the clock. Jack Cantele missed his second field goal attempt of the first half, this time from 42-yards out, to take the game to halftime. He missed a third kick in the second half – a 22-harder – and was yanked from the game.

The win gives No. 5 Auburn a 3-0 record, and 20th ranked Kansas State drops to 2-1.