Dec. 16, 2013
Robenson Therezie picks off a pass during Auburn's 31-24 victory over Washington State (Associated Press photo)
First in a series of stories on Auburn's journey to the BCS National Championship Game.
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN - As Auburn prepared to play Washington State in the first game of Gus Malzahn's first season as head coach, the shadow of the shadow of the 2012 season remained.
Auburn players still carried the emotional scars of the worst Auburn season in 60 years. On Aug. 31, as the Tigers went to Jordan-Hare Stadium, they had to look all the way back to a victory over Ole Miss on Oct. 29, 2011, to find their last victory over a team from a BCS Conference.
There was nothing pretty about the game between two teams that had been 3-9 the previous season, but Robenson Therezie's interception in the end zone thwarted Washington State's last threat and Auburn escaped with a 31-24 victory.
"I'm just so proud of our guys," Malzahn said when it was over. "You know 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. Our fans deserve to win, and we have a chance to get better. I mean, we're not there. I think everybody knows that, but we have a chance to get better. I'm really enjoying coaching these guys."
Tre Mason scored the season's first touchdown on an 8-yard run and the second on a 100-yard kickoff return to give Auburn a 15-14 lead. Then came what would be recurring story. A player who had been virtually abandoned in 2012 made a big play.
Junior running back Corey Grant ran 75 yards for a touchdown as Auburn took a 22-21 lead with 6:06 left in the second quarter. Cody Parkey's three field goals finished the scoring for the Tigers, who did not trail again. Grant finished with 149 yards rushing on nine carries.
Therezie, who had even moved temporarily to running back in 2012, had two interceptions at the star position.
Junior college transfer quarterback Nick Marshall, in his first Auburn game, was solid but not spectacular. He completed 10-of-19 passes for 99 yards and ran nine times for 27 yards. Mason rushed for 73 yards on 15 carries and junior college transfer Cameron Artis-Payne for 52 yards on 10 carries.
Washington State quarterback Conner Halliday went to the air 65 times, completing 35 for 344 yards. He threw three interceptions.
Washington State outgained the Tigers 464 yards to 394.
Following is a video of Malzahn's postgame press conference:
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: