AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Auburn coach Gus Malzahn wanted to see how his team handled tough times, and to shield new quarterback Nick Marshall from them as much as possible.
The result was an opening 31-24 victory over Washington State that showcased the running game, kept the pressure largely off Marshall and gave Malzahn a chance to measure his Tigers' mettle.
"My big deal was adversity and my head was on a swivel," he said. "I wanted to see how we handled it. That was my big question, but I didn't see heads down and all that pouting. I saw some bright eyes, I saw our guys hustling on and off the field no matter what the score was and I'm proud of our guys for that."
Resiliency and confidence were big issues in a matchup of two teams coming off psyche-bruising 3-9 seasons. The Tigers (1-0) trailed three times in the game. They answered right back on Tre Mason's 100-yard kick return the second time and Corey Grant's 75-yard run the third and then made two defensive stops late in the game.
Auburn's mistakes made less of an impression on Malzahn than his team's handling of them.
Marshall didn't come up with many big plays, but also didn't commit any turnovers.
It was the first time Auburn had an opener with both a new quarterback and head coach since 1969. Marshall, the seventh new opening-day starter in as many years, had only preseason camp to learn Malzahn's offense after transferring from junior college.
He bobbled a low snap on his first play and was tackled for a loss, and then his first four passes were incompletions. Marshall finished 10-of-19 passing for 99 yards and ran nine times for 27 yards, while overshooting several deep balls.
The Tigers rushed for 297 yards on 45 carries, divvying up the carries among Mason, Grant and Cameron Artis-Payne.
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