The fan behind me yelled, "Run the zone read, Gus. Run the zone read." And yes, he yelled this the entire game.
Well, fortunately for this man, Nick Marshall was finally put into the game to run, yes, the zone read. And, boy, did he execute it well. After two stellar quarters played by Auburn backup Jeremy Johnson -- a guy that could be starting for almost every team in the country outside of the Top 5 -- Gus Malzahn and crew chose to put Marshall in the game at the start of the third quarter.
What had happened before that? Johnson took the field ready to face the Razorbacks. After an opening possession punt, the Tigers found the end zone on a 49-yard pass play. Johnson, who surgically sliced and diced through the Razorbacks' defense, began 8-of-8 passing until a careless drop and an overthrown deep ball left him at 8-of-10 passing for 243 yards and two touchdowns. Not bad, eh?
What about D'haquille "Duke" Williams? This JUCO receiver was arguably the most talked about coming into this career-defining season under Malzahn. His routes were crisp, his hands were money, and his speed was apparent, as Williams ignited echoes of "Duuuuuuuuuuuuuke" in his 9 catches for 153 yards and a touchdown.
"Duke had a great performance, but we knew that was coming. We expected that," Auburn running back Cameron Artis-Payne said. "We expect big things from Duke."
Back to Marshall, though. Even as the Tigers perused through the Arkansas defense, the same can be said for Arkansas. A two pronged running attack in Alex Collins and Korliss Marshall were enough to keep their team in the game. And as the man behind me continued to brag about and critique his Tigers, his request to bring Marshall in was finally granted at the beginning of the second half. With the score tied 21-21, Auburn fans' man operated comfortably in his zone-read offense, leading to two scores in the third. And as the fourth rolled around, so did these horrendous clouds:
Auburn game suspended due to lightning. Horrific clouds in the distance: pic.twitter.com/Q4OaLpdgDt— Alec Lewis (@alec_lewis) August 30, 2014
After a short suspension of play, the teams got back on the field at 7:20 p.m. CT, but at that point for the Razorbacks, it was too little, too late, as Auburn Tigers rolled to a 45-21 victory.
I guess for Malzahn, you have to be happy. Although the Tigers' defense gave up 21 points in the first half, it held the Razorbacks scoreless in the second, which is a great sign. Not to mention D'haquille Williams, who could be the best receiver Auburn has had in quite some time.
And for Bret Bielema and the Razorbacks? Well, when it rains, it pours, and for Arkansas, a win in the SEC needs to come a bit sooner rather than later. And maybe, just maybe, with their newfound running prowess, they can do that in shocking fashion by knocking off Texas A&M a month from now.