Positive Signs in Auburn's Running Game

Head Coach Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee have many weapons to use with Auburn's personnel and their running schemes.

Aubur, Ala. – The running game for Auburn on opening night 2013 was reminiscent of a typical successful Gus Malzahn or Rhett Lashlee offense.

The Tigers totaled 297 net yards on the ground, which is nothing to scoff at, and the carry distribution was typical Malzahn.

The two workhorses, Tre Mason and Cameron Artis-Payne, got 15 and 10 carries respectively for a combined 125 yards. The star of the night on the ground was somewhat of a surprise considering his production last year.

In 2012 Corey Grant carried the ball nine times for 29 yards. Against Washington State Grant carried the ball nine times for 146 yards.

"Corey can really run and I think everybody saw that today," Malzahn said after the game. "He's got speed that's comparable to Onterio McCalebb, and we just need to find ways to get him the ball."

When Malzahn was offensive coordinator at Auburn he used McCalebb on speed sweeps, many times out of the Wildcat formation. Artis-Payne took the direct snap out of the Wildcat several times on his 10 carries with a long rush of 19 yards.

Grant had the longest run on the evening with a 75-yard scoring dash in the second quarter. From then on the Washington State defense made it a point to not let him have the edge, but that left him several cutback lanes as he ran for 16.2 yards a pop.

"That's awesome," said center Reese Dismukes. "I'm proud of him. He's worked so hard, and he really came out tonight. He's going to be the guy that's going to make plays. I'm excited for him."

Mason's speed also gave the Cougars trouble as he simply outran several players who had the angle for a 100-yard kickoff return moments before Grant's long touchdown. Despite the speed advantage the Tigers struggled on occasion picking up the short yardage it needed to keep the chains moving.

"That's a real big emphasis," Dismukes said. "If it's 3rd and 1 or 3rd and 2, we've got to be able to get that. I'm sure we'll work on that more this week. We've worked on it a lot. There are some things we've got to correct.

"As far as the offense goes we did a lot of good things tonight," he added. "We did a lot of bad things, too. It's always better to correct things after you win than after a loss. That will be a big thing--seeing everything on tape. We'll keep getting better week to week.

"We did what we had to do to win," the junior center continued. "We didn't play very well. We played all right. We didn't play near to what our standard is. We just have to keep getting better. I'm proud of the guys, and I'm glad we got the win."

Tre Mason

Auburn returned four starting offensive linemen from last year's squad (Greg Robinson, Dismukes, Chad Slade and Patrick Miller) as well as fullback/H-back Jay Prosch. But the Tigers picked up just 4-13 third-down conversions all night and had a tough time running between the tackles at times.

Malzahn nearly went for a 4th and 1 in Auburn's own territory in the first quarter, but he said after the game that he doesn't know enough about his players yet.

"We're learning," he said. "I learn about our guys at practice and every game, but you learn more in games and so in the future if there's a high percentage of us getting it, we'll do it. I wanted to (go for it) but I didn't feel like I could pull the trigger right there at that time in the game."

Quarterback Nick Marshall was a much-hyped player coming into the game, but in his debut in an Auburn uniform the best thing he did was not turn it over. He had a solid second half, managed the game well, threw for 99 yards and ran for another 27. A dual-threat last year in junior college, he will likely become a bigger player in the offense the more Malzahn learns about his guys.

The only turnover of the night for Auburn came from the ever-reliable Tre Mason at one of most inopportune times. Trying to run out the clock late in the fourth quarter, Mason fumbled at midfield with the Tigers clinging to a seven-point advantage. However, the defense held and Malzahn had the confidence to go back to Mason to ice the win.

"Yeah, he fumbled the football," Malzahn noted. "But Tre is a veteran guy and I just told him we're going to give you the ball back and we've got confidence in you and we gave it to him and he finished the game out."

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories