Once again, squirrels are no longer safe on Auburn's campus.
I usually wait to write my reviews till Tuesday , because my knee-jerk reaction is often too high or too low. Having taken a minute to digest everything we saw on Saturday night, I reached the conclusion that none of us, not me, not you, (probably) not even Gus Malzahn, has a decent clue about how the 2013 will turn out yet. I saw things that made me optimistic, as well as a few areas where we need to get better and quick if we want to even make a bowl game. The bottom line is you cannot tell how a team is going to fare by the first game of the season. Case in point, raise you hand if after week one of 2012 you thought the season would be a dumpster fire.
I was happy to see Cory Grant get a chance and make the best of it against Washington State. He is Ontario fast, but he can break a tackle as well and my guess is he will eventually be a better asset than Ontario was for this season at least. The running game is general is going to be very good. Washington State stacked the box and dared Auburn to throw it deep, yet still got gashed for the most part on the ground.
The defense, especially in the second half was much better than at any point we have seen since 2010. I like the fact that Ellis Johnson allowed for some press man coverage which essentially ended the Leach air raid after halftime. Three picks (should have been 5 but whatever) is encouraging as well. Robinson Therezie filled in for Justin Garrett so well that we might consider the double star defense from now on, especially the way the linebackers played. More on that in a sec.
Special teams again helps get Auburn a win with no net return yards for Washington State. Not a yard in kickoff or punt returns. That makes a huge different. Mason's kickoff return for a touchdown was a momentum changer that got Auburn going. And how about Chris Davis actually gaining yards on a punt return. It's been since 2008 since we have seen any life there.
Now for the things that are cause for concern, and I mean a big, huge cold sore on a first date type of concern:
Linebackers: Jake Holland, a senior linebacker did not record a single tackle. Not. A Single. Tackle. And the rest of the crew wasn't much better totaling 2 tackles all night. This will cost us a win or two down the road. I have nothing more to add about Jake Holland. He's a good kid, but we need to let these underclassmen play. They are the future and can do no worse.
Nick Marshall: Nick looked like he was funneling 5 hour energy prior to kickoff. He was overthrowing receivers by twenty yards and was firing it in too hard even on short and medium routes. He looked flat out nervous in the first half. He settled down a bit better in the second half, but he still has a huge amount of work to do to make Auburn's offense competitive with the giants that loom later on the schedule.
Receivers: as a unit, they were underwhelming catching the ball and running routes in general to me, and this didn't help Wallace's cause any. You could see Gus doing some serious chewing on Ricardo Lewis on the sideline at one point during the game. I was happy to see that. Thinking back, I always remember Chizik jumping around like a cheerleader on the sideline after something went well, but I never recall him getting on a player for not executing a play.
Auburn got the W Saturday night against a team that was a little better than at least I thought they would be. Mike Leach is a good coach that does a lot with what he has. Auburn is learning how to win again. They took a big step in the right direction in Jordan Hare Saturday night. How far will they go? Hard to say right now. I will say that they had better strap it up against Arky St. They are a good program right now with good players. If you'll remember, feature Red Wolf running back David Oku was a highly sought after recruit who left Tennessee. They are dangerous and have the nation's second longest winning streak. And they would love to hang an L on their former coach.