Tigers Off And Running

Auburn's running game set the tone in a 40-14 victory over Washington State.

Auburn, Ala.--If there was one goal for Auburn's offense Saturday night in its opener against Washington State it was to start early. Something has been a trademark of Al Borges' offenses his first two seasons has been a fast starting team. That's true in most games but not openers.

Auburn has struggled offensively in recent season openers but that wasn't the case against the Cougars as the team pounded out 40 points and 484 yards of total offense. Despite having to settle for four first-half field goals that kept the score within reach well into the third quarter, quarterback Brandon Cox says it's nice to get out of the game comfortably because of all the pressure surrounding the start of the season.

"We've been hearing all summer and all two-a-days about how getting off to a good start has been a problem around here," Cox says. "Getting out there and coming away with the victory like we did is a big relief."

Brad Lester ran for 37 yards and caught another pass for 34 yards.

Much of the reason for Auburn's victory came because of a ground game that punished the Cougars to within inches of their lives. Led by 183 yards and a touchdown from senior Kenny Irons, Auburn pounded out 293 yards on the ground to beat down Washington State for the victory. Cox says that having that running game was a plus because the unknown of a first game can be scary as he remembers from last season.

"We rushed for close to 300 yards so the running game was definitely there," Cox says. "It was a big relief. We threw 44 times in the first game last year and 18 this time. That's a big difference. That's the difference in the running game working and the running game not working."

"Kenny is Kenny," Cox says. "He's going to run hard every play and our offensive line, you have to give them credit. They did a great job of run blocking and opening holes for him. Kenny found the holes and broke some tackles and got his typical 180-something yards."

In addition to Irons Brad Lester had a solid game running the football with 37 yards on six carries. Throw in 19 yards from Tre Smith and 10 from Carl Stewart and you see the depth Auburn can throw at a team in the backfield. But it's still all about the offensive line and coordinator Al Borges says that the group did a great job in its first game together as a unit.

"I thought the offensive line did a wonderful job and as the game went on they were feeling their oats a little more," Borges says. "They were coming off the ball. In the third quarter we were feeling pretty good about ourselves. The backs were getting a chance to really maneuver."

In the end Auburn's 2006 season will hinge on the ability of the Tigers to run the ball effectively week in and week out. Saturday was a good start to that goal and it's a goal that senior Ben Grubbs says the team will continue to work towards because that's the nature of this team and football program as a whole.

"Honestly that's what we do, we run the ball," Grubbs says. "Coach Tub always emphasizes that on offense we're going to run the ball and on defense we're going to stop the run. We're just carrying on the tradition. Here at Auburn we have good running backs and it makes our job a lot easier. We just had to beat them to the punch and finish."

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