You may have asked yourself…

How can a team losing Tre Mason, Jay Prosch, Greg Robinson and Alex Kozan … a team that averaged 328.4 rushing yards per game be as dominant?

In the first half of their season-opener against Arkansas, Auburn rushed for 68 yards on 18 carries. That’s 3.8 yards per carry. In the second half, that same rushing attack ran for 234 yards and 7.5 yards per carry.

The key may surprise you.

Nick Marshall.

Marshall totaled just 19 yards on eight carries, but he played a much bigger role than the stat line indicates in Auburn’s 300-yard performance.

The threat of his speed, and his ability to run the zone read opens up running lanes for his partners in the backfield.

“With Nick being a little faster than Jeremy and running the zone read as well as he does, it helps to open us up as running backs,” tailback Corey Grant said.

Marshall, the former defensive back-turned-quarterback, became just the fourth SEC quarterback to eclipse the 1,000-yard threshold last season when he rushed for 1,068 yards en route to Auburn’s appearance in the BCS title game.

Marshall possesses great speed, but also the strength to stay on his feet and break tackles. And his innate knack for the zone read is lethal.

On his first drive of the game at the start of the 3rd quarter last week, Marshall burst through the middle for a 19-yard touchdown. It was then the adjustments came from Arkansas.

The Hogs had to guys shadowing Marshall on the edge of the formation, and on several exchanges between the quarterback and running back, Arkansas defenders were sucked in opening the perimeter of the field.

That opens up the middle of the field for Cameron Artis-Payne, who is drawing comparisons to Mason after his 26 carry, 177-yard performance, and Grant who rushed for 87 yards on 10 carries. Then there are freshmen Peyton Barbar and Roc Thomas, both of whom head coach Gus Malzahn wants to get on the field.

No Mason. No Prosch. No Robinson. No Kozan. Three of those guys are in the NFL now, and early in the game it looked as if that losses had slowed the Tigers down.

Then Marshall stepped onto the field, and with him out there, it looks as if Auburn’s nation-best rushing attack will just keep rolling along.