Sep 1, 2013
Tre Mason is on the run in opener against Washington State (Anthony Hall photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — As a group, Corey Grant was saying, Auburn's running backs can be playmakers and motivate the team.
After a 75-yard touchdown run, a 100-yard kickoff return and bunch of rushing yards, the Auburn running back had accurately described the Tigers' 31-24 win over Washington State on Saturday night.
Grant was the one with the 75-yard TD run and finished with a game-high 146 rushing yards. Tre Mason raced 100 yards on a kickoff return and gained 73 yards from his tailback position. Newcomer Cameron Artis-Payne added 52 yards. Those three combined for 418 all-purpose yards, 271 of them on running plays.
"I think this offense gives everybody a better opportunity," Grant said.
"We're trying to be the No. 1 backfield in the country," Mason said. "We're going to keep working and try to fulfill that goal."
Mason has other big plans. "The biggest turnaround in college football. That's our goal and that's what we're going to do."
Grant didn't get much of an opportunity last year. He had nine carries. Nine. He had nine carries in Saturday's season-opener and made the best of the situation. Grant said he sees himself "kind of like a speed guy," the one Onterio McCalebb had before him.
Grant had a chance to shine in front of his friends and family. He's from Opelika, though he signed with Alabama and spent a season there before transferring to Auburn.
"After being at Alabama for a year, and sitting out, and last year not really having a chance, this opener, and what we did tonight, is a great feeling," he said.
"It means a lot, coming off last year, to open up this year with a win is great feeling."
Mason rushed for a 1,000 yards last year, and flashed the speed Saturday that helped him have a big 2012 season. What people will remember will be the kickoff return for a touchdown, just like he did as a freshman in 2011.
The 2012 season? He returned three kicks.
Mason says he enjoys returning kicks, and said he told special teams coach Scott Fountain that.
"That's my thing. I know I have a knack," he said. "I told the Coach before the game I would run one back. The guys up front did their job. I followed Quan Bray and took it down the sidelines."
Auburn certainly turned to its run game Saturday. Head coach Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee took the burden off new quarterback Nick Marshall by turning to the run. The Tigers rushed for 297 yards and passed for 99. Either way, Mason said he's good with Auburn's game plans.
"I trust Coach Malzahn and Coach Lashlee because they're gurus at what they do," he said.
After last year's 3-9 season, it was a good start to a new year.
"We really need this for confidence," Mason said. "I didn't have a doubt in my mind that we'd come out with a 'W' because everyone is hungry."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine