Auburn certainly had opportunities to put that game away several times, but had a holding penalty here, an offsides there, a dropped pass or something else that doesn't happen with a polished team kept that from happening. There was plenty in the Washington State game film for the coaches to show their players what they need to do better this week when they take on Arkansas State.
I didn't see anything offensively that leads me to believe that the 2013 Tigers can't be much better at moving the football than they were last year. I think this group has enough talent at the wide receiver positions, but those players have to do a better job catching the football than they did on opening night.
I think the quarterback will be fine. Nick Marshall just has to settle down and I think he will do that from now on. One thing he needs to do is to develop a better touch on throwing the deep ball.
To be able to successfully run the football throughout the season the Tigers have to be able to push opposing defensive backs and linebackers off the line of scrimmage and make defenses respect the vertical passing game. You can't make them back up throwing short stuff--quick screens, bubble screens and stuff like that. You have to got to run by them to make them back up.
Defensively, the Tigers probably didn't play as well as they should have in some places in the opener, but I thought they ran to the ball and played hard all night. That, along with the improved tackling, was encouraging to see.
Washington State brought an experienced team to Jordan-Hare Stadium with 19 returning starters. The Cougars finished last season with a good win over Washington. That shows you that Coach Leach had not lost his team. Washington State also gave a very good Stanford team a real battle on the road last season, losing 24-17, which leads me to believe Auburn's opening night victory was a solid one.
I am certainly interested to see how Auburn performs vs. a very different style of play the Tigers will see from Arkansas State, a team that really likes to run the football. I am also curious to see what Washington State shows this Saturday when the Cougars play at Southern Cal.
Overall, I thought Auburn's opening game was a good start. This week the Tigers need to come out strong and approach game two like they are playing for the national championship and do whatever it takes to get better with the SEC portion of the schedule only a week away. There is plenty of room for growth with this group and the Tigers need to make sure that happens on Saturday night vs. Arkansas State.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor's Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming. Dye writes three columns for AUTigers.com--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.