By Chelsa Messinger
Ever since Auburn hired new Head Football Coach Gus Malzahn, we've been hearing one thing.
"It's a new day."
But on August 31 2013, "A New Day" finally had meaning.
Auburn kicked off the Gus Malzahn era with a 31-24 win over Washington State.
"I'm just so proud of our guys," said Malzahn after the game. "They went through a storm last year. They really bought in to what our coaches asked them to do."
"We needed this win to get the biggest turnaround in college football," said Running Back Tre Mason. "That's our goal."
"A New Day" meant a new team, and the difference between this year and last seemed to be night and day.
"Guys seem to be more focused," said Running Back Corey Grant. "Coach Malzahn and his new staff are pushing us more, and guys are just buying in more."
Under Malzahn's new No-Huddle offense, along with some creative play calling,
the run game thrived. The Tigers rushed for 297 yards, two touchdowns and averaged 6.6 yards per carry.
"We're trying to be the number one backfield in the country," said Mason.
"The sky's the limit," said Running Back Cameron Artis-Payne. "We have three really good backs and who ever is the hot hand, that's who we go with."
It was also a breakout game for former Opelika star Corey Grant. The Junior Running Back rushed for 146 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown run.
"Corey can really run," said Malzahn. "I think everybody saw that today. He's got speed comparable to Ontario McCalebb."
After a stagnant 2012, explosive plays were back.
Tre Mason returned a kick 100 yards for a touchdown, and the Auburn secondary recorded three interceptions. One more than they had all of last season.
"We have really good potential," said Cornerback Jonathon Mincy. "I feel we can be a great defense."
Just four weeks after coming to the plains, Quarterback Nick Marshall was a bit sheltered in his debut. Marshall went 10-of-19 for 99 yards, but no touchdowns.
"There were a couple things, communication-wise, that we'll get better on, but overall I liked the way he handled himself," said Malzahn. "We didn't want to put him in a bad situation tonight. We wanted to try and protect him and learn more about him."
But possibly the biggest difference, was in the stands, on the sidelines, and in Malzahn's smile as he walked off the field.
"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," said Malzahn. "Our fans deserve to win."
"We still have a chance to get better, and I'm really enjoying coaching these guys."
It may be just one game, one win, against a non-conference opponent, but one thing is still for sure.
On Saturday night, a little bit of faith was restored in a once trying Auburn football program.
"Like Coach Malzahn said, it's a new day," said Tre Mason.
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