Auburn Football: Rushing Game Makes Statement in Gus Malzahn's Debut

T.J. McaloonContributorSeptember 1, 2013

AUBURN, AL - AUGUST 31:  Running back Corey Grant #20 of the Auburn Tigers runs the ball in for a touchdown during the first half of play on August 31, 2013 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama. At halftime Auburn leads Washington State 25-21.  (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
Michael Chang/Getty Images

Auburn started its 2013 season light years ahead of the way its 2012 started—the Tigers won and looked good on offense Saturday. 

However, despite the woes in the passing game, the rushing game looked great in their 31-24 win over Washington State. The ground-and-pound attack accounted for both of their offensive touchdowns and 297 of Auburn’s 396 total yards.

If there’s something that Tigers fans can take away from this rushing game, it's that when they won the national title in 2010 with Cam Newton they ran the ball 692 times and threw it only 296. 

That is an amazing 70 percent of the time the Tigers ran the ball over trying to pass.

Today, against Washington State, their selection saw them elect to run 69.6 percent of the time. 

Similar numbers. However, that national title team had a Heisman Trophy quarterback in Newton who ran the ball 264 times that season. 

This year’s installment doesn’t boast the type of quarterback play that allowed Auburn the freedom to beat teams by either passing or running. 

Today, Nick Marshall was awful, completing only 52.6 percent of his passes and failing to crack 100 yards. Marshall, unlike Cam, isn’t known for his rushing abilities. Instead it was Corey Grant who shined in the victory.

Grant’s 75-yard touchdown run gave the Tigers the lead and turned out to be the winning score. He went on to lead the team in rushing with 146 yards on only nine carries.

Malzahn didn’t have to lean on Grant, and this should be a warning to future SEC opponents.

Auburn’s rushing attack against Washington State gave a preview of what's going to be a three-headed monster. Grant was the game-breaker while Tre Mason was the workhorse, carrying the ball a team-high 15 times for 73 yards and a touchdown. Cameron Artis-Payne chipped in 10 carries for 52 yards when the Tigers needed a change of pace. 

The rushing game may not carry them back to the top of the polls. However, this offense should be enough to put the Tigers back into the middle of the SEC West Division. 

The all-out ground attack has worked before in the past, and it worked very well in the home opener. If this is a sign of what’s to come with Malzahn at the helm, then Auburn fans will have a lot to cheer about this year.