Wisconsin Football: Outback Bowl Interview with Fly War Eagle


New Year’s Day will see the Wisconsin Badgers take on the Auburn Tigers in the Outback Bowl, and to prepare, we sat down with Fly War Eagle, the Fansided Auburn website, to get some insight on the bowl game.

Thanks to Nicholas Ian Allen, Fly War Eagle’s editor, for taking some time to answer our questions.

More from Football

Be sure to check out Fly War Eagle on Twitter, and see our answers to their questions here.

BoH: Auburn had – for lack of a better word – a magical season a year ago, turning a 3-9 record in 2012 into a 12 win season and a BCS National Championship appearance in 2013. What were the expectations for the team prior to the 2014 season and how have the Tigers lived up to those expectations?

2013 was nearly as good as it gets, and as a result, the expectations were sky high entering 2014.

FWE: 2013 was nearly as good as it gets, and as a result, the expectations were sky high entering 2014. Winning the SEC is always a goal for the Tigers, and recently teams that have accomplished that have had an opportunity to play for the national title. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out.

BoH: Auburn was at one point this year the No. 2 team in the nation, and arguably its worst loss was a three-point game against a conference opponent who finished with a winning record – Texas A&M, who was also the No. 6 team in the country at one point. Does this really feel like a four-loss team considering all the highs the Tigers have experienced this season?

FWE: Looking back, the only real surprise was the loss to Texas A&M. It seemed like Auburn kind of looked past the Aggies that day, and A&M has the talent to compete with anybody, so it really bit them. It’s possible the upset against the Aggies led in part to a poor performance the following week against Georgia, but losing to Georgia wasn’t that big of a surprise. Poor defense, turnovers, and special teams blunders led to the loss against A&M, but Mississippi State, Georgia and Alabama simply beat Auburn.

Nov 29, 2014; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers quarterback Nick Marshall (14) throws the ball in the first quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

BoH: How have you seen Nick Marshall grow as a quarterback? Clearly he has always been a good runner, but do you feel his skills as a passer – as displayed in the Iron Bowl this year – get overlooked?

FWE: Nick Marshall has a very strong arm, and he’s an escape artist in the pocket, but he’s struggled with consistency and accuracy. Prior to the 2014 season, the Auburn coaching staff emphasized being more balanced offensively in 2014, and Marshall helped by improving his throwing mechanics and footwork – but he also struggled at times to hit wide open receivers. On other occasions, Marshall hit open receivers in the hands and they couldn’t hang on, so it’s not all his fault.

Like you mentioned, Marshall broke the Auburn single-game passing record in the Iron Bowl, which is something nobody saw coming, but he’s always had the talent to put up huge numbers through the air if necessary, and when Duke Williams and Sammie Coates are both on top of their game, like they were against the Tide, they’re one of the top receiver combos in the country, which is a huge help.

BoH: Speaking of the Iron Bowl, Auburn hung in with what the College Football Playoff Committee (and pretty much every other poll/power ranking/talking head on the planet) deemed to be the number one team in the country. While the Tigers fell to the Crimson Tide to end the season, was there any moral victory Auburn took from the loss?

Any loss to Alabama stings, even if Auburn’s an underdog.

FWE: I don’t think there is any sort of moral victory because it’s a game Auburn could have won. The Tigers settled for five field goals in the red zone against Alabama, and the defense was completely gashed in the second half (which was apparently the straw that broke the camel’s back for now-fired defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson). Any loss to Alabama stings, even if Auburn’s an underdog.

BoH: It’s not easy to fill the shoes of one of the best players on the team, but how do you feel Cameron Artis-Payne has stepped in where Tre Mason left off?

FWE: Losing Tre Mason hurt, but Cameron Artis-Payne has been fantastic this year. He’s the SEC’s leading rusher and he’s done it by running hard and picking up tough yards consistently. CAP isn’t the home run hitter Mason was, but it’s tough to bring him down for a loss or with just one tackler. And if he breaks a tackle, he’s quick enough to pick up big yards.