Auburn vs Washington State: Malzahn's Offense Puts Pressure on Tigers' Defense

Justin Lee@@byjustinleeContributor ISeptember 1, 2013

Aug 31, 2013; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn and his team enter the field at Jordan Hare Stadium for the game against the Washington State Cougars.  The Tigers beat the Cougars 31-24. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Gus Malzahn's hurry-up, no-huddle offense is back at Auburn.

In Saturday night's opener against Washington State, it was all there: The spread formations. The explosive plays. The quick tempo.

The touchdowns, too.

In its 31-24 win, Auburn piled up 396 yards of offense.

Washington State's offensive guru Mike Leach was duly impressed.

"They're way better than last year," Leach said. "Of course, they've had one top-five recruiting class after another, so they're bound to be pretty good. By hook or crook, they always have a pretty good recruiting class, and this was no exception. I think Gus is doing a good job getting them circled up and playing well together." 

The Tigers only reached 31 points once in all of 2012. They topped Saturday's total yardage mark just three times all last season.

"I'm just so proud of our guys," Malzahn said. "They went through a storm last year, and they really bought in with what our coaches have asked us to do. This is kind of one of those moments that you're very happy for them. I'm very happy for our coaches and really our Auburn fans."

But the success from Malzahn's offense wasn't the only familiar sight that Auburn fans saw Saturday night. The side effects are back, too.

With Malzahn's offense playing at breakneck speed on one end, the Auburn defense was once again strained to play with little rest between series.

In one instance in the second quarter, a gassed Auburn defense was gutted by the Washington State offense, as the Cougars held the ball for 9:14 of a 9:42 span. During that span, Washington State piled up 162 yards on 27 plays in three drives, scoring on two of those drives.

The Auburn defense didn't have long to rest during that sequence, taking to the sideline twice momentarily, once after a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Tre Mason and again after a 75-yard touchdown run by Corey Grant on the first play of the next drive.

"We got tired, but you just have to battle through it," Auburn cornerback Jonathon Mincy said. "We'll get better with the speed every game. We just had fun out there tonight."

That sequence is one example of how Malzahn's hurry-up offense can have an adverse effect on his defense's play at times.

But Saturday night, the Auburn defense pulled through. After resting during the halftime break, the defense tightened up, allowing just three points in the second half.

Safety Robenson Therezie helped clinch the victory with a key interception in the end zone with less than five minutes to play.  The defense also came through when it forced Washington State into a turnover on downs with less than two minutes to play.

"Our fans deserve to win and we have a chance to get better," Malzahn said. "I mean, we're not there. I think everybody knows that. But we have a chance to get better, and I'm really enjoying coaching these guys."


Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand.