Top 10 Plays of the Malzahn Era at Auburn

When the wheels came off of the Gene Chizik tenure, Auburn turned to a familiar face to steer the bus. For the 2013 season, former offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn was chosen as the 26th head coach in school history. Malzahn brought a reputation as an offensive guru who had achieved success on the high school level, as a coordinator on the collegiate level, and as a college head coach at Arkansas State.

And while it has been a wildly varying five-year tenure, Malzahn’s teams have produced some very memorable campaigns, including playing for the national championship in his first season with the Tigers. Over the last five seasons, Malzahn’s Tigers have produced a 45-22 record, 2 SEC West division titles, and an SEC Championship.

Here we take a look at some of the more memorable plays from Malzahn’s first five years on the Plains.

10. Kerryon Johnson’s 47-Yard TD Run vs. Arkansas State

Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium – Auburn, AL

When: September 10, 2016

H&A Notes: In the first quarter of a scoreless game, Auburn quarterback Sean White dropped back to pass from the Red Wolves’ 47-yard line. Flushed and about to be sacked, White, near the right sideline, underhands a lateral to Johnson. After a dynamic spin move, Johnson reverses field and finally hurdles a defender for the opening score, giving Tiger fans a glimpse of the talent Johnson possessed. Auburn would dominate the Red Wolves 51-14 behind 3 passing touchdowns from White and 152 yards on the ground from Kamryn Pettway.



9. C.J.Uzomah’s 11-Yard Game Winner vs Mississippi State

Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium – Auburn, AL

When: September 14, 2013

H&A Notes: With Auburn trailing the Bulldogs 20-17, Nick Marshall capped off a 12 play 88 yard drive, hitting C.J. Uzomah in the back corner of the end zone with :10 left on the clock. Marshall said of the play: “The coaches told me to go out and be cool, calm and collected, and don’t risk anything. I took his word and all I had to do was execute.” The win snapped a 10 game conference losing streak for the Tigers, who were led by Marshall’s 339 passing yards and 2 touchdowns.


8. Sammie Coates 88-Yard TD Catch and Run vs Arkansas

Where: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium – Fayetteville, AR

When: November 2,2013

H&A Notes: Auburn never trailed against the Razorbacks and put the game away for good in the third quarter when Nick Marshall, who was nursing a shoulder injury, connected with Coates streaking down the left sideline on play-action for the third longest pass and catch in school history. “Nick is one tough customer,” Malzahn said. “We didn’t really know if he was going to play. We felt like he had a chance on Thursday, but we really didn’t know for sure he would start until we got out there and saw him throw pregame. He’s a tough guy and his toughness carries over to our team, especially our offense.” Coates finished the game with 3 grabs for 102 yards and a touchdown.


7. Darius Slayton’s 42-Yard TD Grab vs Georgia

Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium – Auburn, AL

When: November 11, 2017

H&A Notes: With the Tigers holding a slim 9-7 lead and 4:09 remaining in the first half, Tiger quarterback Jarrett Stidham connected with Darius Slayton streaking down the right hash. Slayton slowed, plucked the ball out of the air with the Bulldog defender on his back, and rolled into the endzone for the first touchdown of the game for the Tigers. Auburn would win the game going away 40-17. Malzahn on Slayton: “He got rolled up in the first quarter, so we were worried about him there in the first quarter. He wasn’t 100 percent the way he finished, but he made that play when he rolled into the end zone. He’s starting to come along. He can really run.” 


6. Ryan Davis 75-Yard TD Reception vs Ole Miss

Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium- Auburn, AL

When: October 7, 2017

H&A Notes: Leading the Rebels 7-3 in the 1st quarter, the Tigers would strike on a 1st down play action screen from Jarrett Stidham to Ryan Davis, who went down the left sideline, making one cut across the field and turning on the speed. One final cut put the junior receiver in the end zone with the Tigers’ longest play of the season and Auburn up 14-3. The Tigers wouldn’t look back, running away with a 44-23 victory. Later in the season, Davis would break Auburn’s single season record for receptions with 84.


5. Sammie Coates 56-Yard TD Catch vs LSU

Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium-Auburn, AL

When: October 4, 2014

H&A Notes: Early in the game with Auburn leading LSU 3-0, Nick Marshall found Coates blazing down the numbers on the right side on a 2nd and 18. Coates ripped the ball out of the air between two defenders at the 10-yard-line before bulling his way into the end zone for the first of Marshall’s four touchdowns in the first half. Auburn built a 31-7 half-time lead on the way to a 41-7 win. Auburn piled up 566 total yards in the win. Malzahn said after the game, “We talk about getting better, we talk about improving each week. There’s no doubt we improved this week.”


4. Jason Smith’s 77-Yard Juggling TD Catch vs Alabama

Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium – Auburn, AL

When: November 28, 2015

H&A Notes: Trailing 19-6 with 4:27 remaining in the 3rd quarter and facing a 3rd and 12 from his own 23-yard-line, Tiger quarterback Jeremy Johnson dropped back and fired a pass to Jason Smith running down the middle of the field. At first it looked as if the ball was overthrown, but Smith batted the ball in the air once past a diving defender, then again out in front of himself where he ran under it, continuing on for a 77 yard score, igniting hopes of a comeback. “As I was running, I was like, ‘Man, no way,'” Smith said. “I couldn’t hear anything, at first, until I got in the end zone.” The Tigers would eventually fall short, 29-13, in this edition of the Iron Bowl.


3. Nick Marshall and Sammie Coates 39-Yard RPO vs Alabama

Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium – Auburn, AL

When: November 30, 2013

H&A Notes: With the Tigers trailing 28-21 with :32 left in the game, Nick Marshall faked a handoff to Tre Mason and sprinted to his left on an option keeper. As he approached the line, two Tide defensive backs closed on the Auburn quarterback. Marshall, pulling up at the last second, instead dumped a pass over the defenders to Coates who was alone on the left sideline. Thirty-nine yards later, the Iron Bowl was tied and the stage was set for more late game heroics. Marshall finished the game 97 yards passing 99 yards on the ground. Auburn rolled up 296 rushing yards against a stiff Tide defense that was only yielding 94.1 yards rushing per game.


2. The Prayer at Jordan-Hare

Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium – Auburn, AL

When: November 16, 2013

H&A Notes: Trailing the Bulldogs 38-37 and facing a 4th and 18, Nick Marshall found Ricardo Louis deep down the middle of the field. Two Bulldog defenders converged on the pass, but Josh Harvey-Clemons’s interception attempt bounced off his chest and into the hands of Louis, who scampered into the end zone to complete the dramatic victory. “I just heard in the huddle that Ricardo said, ‘Give me a chance, I’ll make a play.’ It was one of those memorable moments that we’ll remember for a long time,” Malzahn said. “I told our team that I think we’re in the midst of something special here.” Louis finished the game with 4 catches for 131 yards and the miracle touchdown.


1. The Kick Six

Where: Jordan-Hare Stadium – Auburn, AL

When: November 30, 2013

H&A Notes: With :01 on the clock in a tie game, the Crimson Tide lined up for a 57-yard game winning field goal attempt. Adam Griffith’s kick came up yards short, settling into the arms of Auburn’s Chris Davis in the back of end zone. One hundred and nine yards later, Davis put the defining moment on an epic Iron Bowl– one that many consider the greatest ever. 

“We thought about going for the block there.” Malzahn said. “The wind was going in that direction. The kicker has got a good leg. We just made a decision to put Chris back there. There were some very good blocks and he made an unbelievable play at the end to win it.”

When asked if he thought he was going to score Davis said, “When I looked back I said I could believe it. When I was running, I said ‘God is good.’” 

Which ones did we get right and which ones did we leave off? H&A 

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Cover photo: Todd Van Emst/Auburn Athletics 


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