Coach Gus Malzahn has made "getting our edge back" the top priority for his Auburn Tigers. It may be too soon to declare "mission accomplished," but this much is sure—the 2013 Auburn Tigers have now won two games that last year's team likely would have lost.
The story of the first half was the improved play of Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall. After completing only two of nine attempts in the first half last week against Washington State, Marshall connected on seven of 11 attempts in the first half against Arkansas State.
Tiger fans were especially excited to see Marshall finally hit receiver Sammie Coates on a deep pass. Marshall overthrew Coates twice on deep routes in Week 1 and actually underthrew him once early against the Red Wolves. But late in the first half, Marshall hit Coates in stride for a 68-yard touchdown.
It was Marshall's second touchdown pass of the game. He had previously hit true freshman Marcus Davis for an 18-yard score on the Tigers' first drive of the game.
Marshall did commit his first turnover as an Auburn Tiger, losing a fumble in the third quarter. The Tigers defense—which stopped the Red Wolves twice on fourth down in the first half—allowed only a field goal after the turnover, despite Arkansas State getting the ball at the Auburn 17.
The Tigers rushing attack took over in the second half. Cameron Artis-Payne led the way with 102 yards on 19 carries. Tre Mason added 99 yard on 14 carries, and Corey Grant carried seven times for 40 yards. Artis-Payne, Mason and Grant each scored a rushing touchdown.
The Tigers cruised through the fourth quarter en route to a 38–9 victory, a much more satisfying win than the close call last week against Washington State.
Josh Dowdy is a contributor to Bleacher Report and the author of Orange Is Our Color: The Tuberville Years through Navy-tinted Glasses.