So, the dust clears and Auburn beats Washington State by one score 31-24. What does this all mean? Is Auburn back to being a powerhouse after being a doormat in the powerful SEC? Not remotely. Are the Cougs doomed to be cellar dwellers in the Pac-12 again after another offseason of futility? Also no. When we look back at the game there are things to be happy about, angry about, and some straight up head shakers for both teams.
-Auburn's running game. Corey Grant, Tre Mason, and Cameron Artis Payne are a formidable trio, with a combination of speed and power that was hard to ignore and even harder to stop. The future looks bright with this trio going forward; they shredded an improved WSU defense for 271 yards.
-WSU's Air Raid Offense. Everthing that Coug fans were promised when Mike Leach was hired is happening right before their eyes. Improvement in every phase of offense against a real opponent. Individual gaffes aside, this team is light-years ahead of last year's offense.
-Auburn's defense. The aforementioned Coug offense rolled up 464 total yards aginst them, including 120 on the ground. This is a big worry for Tiger fans as they have to play far more powerful teams in the future. There were some bright spots, to be sure, but the Cougs moved the ball on Auburn consistently.
-WSU's defense and special teams. Stay in your lanes on kick off returns. Tre Mason has wheels, there is no doubt about this, but WSU handed him that 100-yard return by over pursuing and not staying diciplined. Ditto on defense as the Cougs played well enough to win, but allowed the big play over and over.
-Auburn's passing game. There are athletes all over this part of Auburn's offense, but it was hard to ignore how out of sync the passing game was. Nick Marshall has a serious cannon, as evidenced by his overthrowing recievers by 10+ yards several times. When he was on target, there were some really bad drops by his wideouts. It was just a mess. The Tigers will need to give that running attack some room to breathe against better opponents.
-WSU's mental mistakes, Connor Halliday under pressure. The aforementioned kickoff return, Bucannon's unsportsmenlike penalty after a great play and breaking down to old habits killed the Cougs. Halliday's solid running of Coach Leach's system was marred by consistently defaulting to his "run and chuck it" approach as the game got tighter. His tendency to lock onto recievers and force the ball into coverage is a death blow to a solid offense. If he cannot fix the problem Leach will have to look elsewhere. Mental mistakes beat the Cougs Saturday, every bit as much as Auburn did.
-ESPN's total lack of coverage on WSU. Yes, I am a homer, but the coverage was 98% Auburn. I could understand this in a blowout, but a one-score game?