Just What the Doctor Ordered
It didn’t take long Saturday to see that things were different. Trailing early in the first quarter, this Auburn team did something unseen last season – it responded. That alone is enough to call Saturday’s season opener a success.
After a summer of hope and hype, reality hit Saturday night. Gus Malzahn’s team has a long way to go. Like Pat Dye’s first team in 1982 and Tommy Tuberville’s inaugural season in 1999, this group is laying a foundation for the future. It’s going to be laborious and ugly at times.
And that’s OK.
On a miserably hot and humid night at Jordan-Hare Stadium fans got what they paid to see: Players who care again. Make no mistake, there’s a lot for this team to hang its hat on following the win over Washington St.
Sure Nick Marshall looked at times more like Juice Newton than Cam Newton, but it was easy to see he’s clearly the best option at quarterback. The Auburn defense did something we haven’t seen since the 2010 National Championship Game. They adjusted to the play of the opposing offense.
Somebody buy Ellis Johnson a beer or six.
Who was that Cory Grant kid? Not listed on the depth chart early in the week, he’s the fastest back in an Auburn uniform since that Cadillac guy. Kudos to the much maligned offensive line. Nobody is saying they are ready to line up and beat LSU yet, but they did hold their blocks for most of the evening. It’s all about baby steps.
Looking forward, this Auburn team will go as far as Marshall can take them. Admittedly nervous, he will have to get better quick for Auburn to have a chance at post-season play.
Count Washington St. quarterback Connor Halliday among those not impressed with his early showing.
“They (Auburn) ran the ball real, real, real well,” said Halliday on Sunday. “If they could find a quarterback, they’d be a top-five team in the nation. They just don’t have a guy who can throw it. That running game was something very, very impressive.”
Marshall finished the game 10-of-19 for 99 yards and 27 yards rushing.
Halliday’s coach, Mike Leach believes there’s more to see with Marshall than what was on display in week one.
“I am just kind of curious about him after he gets more games under his belt,” Leach said.
This Saturday will be no push-over when Arkansas St. comes calling. The Red Wolves made easy work of Arkansas Pine-Bluff 62-11 in its opener. They set an NCAA record with four players rushing for more than 100 yards in the game. Their defense may be the best in the Sun Belt Conference.
Offensively, look for more of the same, with Arkansas St. trying to take advantage of Auburn’s secondary. They are led by Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year and Phenix City native J.D. McKissic, who caught 103 passes for 1,022 yards and five touchdowns last year.
Saturday’s game kicks off at 6:30 p.m. CT and will be televised by Fox Sports South.
Here’s hoping that it’s a few degrees cooler this go around.