From the beginning, it was Auburn's night
by Ryan Black
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer
Sep 07, 2013 | 2533 views |  0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Auburn wide receiver Sammie Coats scores a touchdown. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
Auburn wide receiver Sammie Coats scores a touchdown. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
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AUBURN -- It didn't take long to figure out this would be Auburn's night.

In fact, it took all of one play. Arkansas State, the school Tigers coach Gus Malzahn led last season, was flagged for "failure to wear contrasting colors" on the game's opening kickoff. They wore gray jerseys, which didn't provide much of a difference from Auburn's navy blue home shirts.

It was a foreboding sign for the Red Wolves, who were attempting to become the first Sun Belt Conference team to win in Jordan-Hare Stadium, snapping an 0-for-17 skid.

The Tigers never gave the visitors a chance, scoring on the contest's first possession and leading for the duration, picking up a 38-9 victory to help Malzahn defeat his former team.

The coach didn't downplay the significance of the victory, adding it felt different than previous successes.

"It was pretty emotional," Malzahn said. "It was interesting and good to see those guys. I wish them the best moving forward."

When asked about the "equipment malfunction" called on Arkansas State to begin the game, Malzahn could only shake his head.

"Yeah," he said. "You don't see that one (called) very much."

Malzahn's new quarterback led the way. After an uneven performance against Washington State last week -- passing for just 99 yards and no touchdowns and running for 27 yards with no scores -- Nick Marshall showed why he had set Tigers' supporters abuzz when it was announced he would join the team this season. The Georgia native threw for 147 yards and two touchdowns, and added an additional 53 yards on the ground.

Marshall proved last week's game, which was littered with near-misses and overthrown passes, was far behind him. He opened the game completing four of his first five passes, with the final one an 18-yard touchdown to freshman receiver Marcus Davis to punctuate the game's first drive. Cody Parkey's point after was good, giving Auburn a 7-0 lead with less than four minutes off the clock.

The score made up for an earlier miscue, as running back Tre Mason reached the end zone from 12 yards out, only to have it nullified on a holding penalty from right guard Chad Slade.

Arkansas State (1-1) responded immediately, capping the next drive with a 42-yard field goal from senior kicker Brian Davis.

It would end up being a recurring theme: The Tigers scoring touchdowns while the Red Wolves settled for field goals.

Following Davis' first successful kick, Auburn hit paydirt once more on its ensuing possession. Corey Grant, who had the best game of his career last week -- and started in the Tigers' backfield Saturday -- scooted in from the Red Wolves' 17-yard line at the 3:56 mark of the opening period.

But the most electric play of the game came on Auburn's third score. After narrowly missing Sammie Coates on multiple passes this season, Marshall finally found himself on the same wavelength as his sophomore receiver in the second quarter. Separating himself from his defender, Coates hauled in Marshall's perfect pass, and didn't stop until he found the end zone. After another extra point by Parkey, the Tigers' lead stood at 21-3.

The 68-yard scoring strike was a career-long play for both, as Coates' previous best was a 42-yard reception against Ole Miss last season. It also marked the first 60-plus yard completion for the Tigers since Cam Newton and Darvin Adams hooked up on a 62-yard completion in the 2010 SEC Championship Game.

After that, the offensive fireworks ended. Only two more touchdowns were put on the board, as Mason made up for his earlier negated score in the fourth quarter, taking it in from Arkansas State's 11-yard line with 1:14 to play in the third quarter, pushing Auburn's advantage to 28-9. Fellow running back Cameron Artis-Payne also scored with just 1:43 to play.

The Tigers (2-0) didn't walk away from the game with all positives, however. After hitting Arkansas State quarterback Adam Kennedy high, sophomore linebacker Kris Frost was ejected because of the NCAA's renewed emphasis on targeting players deemed defenseless. Because of his ejection occurring in the second half, Frost will also have to sit out the first half of next week's SEC opener against Mississippi State.
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From the beginning, it was Auburn's night by Ryan Black
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

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