By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
There’s no denying most — if not, all — eyes were on Nick Marshall as Auburn prepared to take on Washington State in its season opener.
The JUCO transfer officially took over as the Tigers’ signal-caller on Saturday, making him the ninth different quarterback to start for the Orange and Blue since the 2007 season.
It wasn’t the ideal debut for Marshall, but his performance shouldn’t be any cause for concern.
After a couple of substantial overthrows on Auburn’s first two drives, the junior settled in nicely and finished his first game at Jordan-Hare Stadium 10 of 19 for 99 yards. He didn’t score a touchdown, but more importantly — especially for coach Gus Malzahn — he didn’t turn the ball over, either.
“Overall, I liked the way he handled himself," Malzahn said. “He protected the football and that's hard to do. They were showing him a lot of different looks, trying to disguise some things, but he protected the football.”
While Marshall may have made some mistakes, his arm strength and ability to extend plays are definite pluses for the Tigers as the season goes along, provided the quarterback continues to improve under Malzahn’s tutelage.
% Making Plays: During Auburn’s woeful 2012 season, the Tiger defense was unable to stop almost any of its opponents.
Not only that, but the unit ranked near the bottom of the FBS in takeaways, corralling just two interceptions in 12 contests.
However, on Saturday night, defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson saw his group surpass that paltry total from a season ago in just one game, as the Tigers intercepted Cougar quarterback Connor Halliday three times in the 31-24 victory.
Junior Robinson Therezie collected two picks, while sophomore safety Joshua Holsey had the other.
Therezie was named the Southeastern Conference’s defensive player of the week on Monday.
% A Knack for Openers: Tre Mason likes returning kickoffs in season openers.
The junior running back housed a 100-yard touchdown on Saturday evening, giving him his second career kickoff return for a score.
His other came in the Tigers’ 2011 opener against Utah State, when Mason took the ball 97 yards up the left hash mark for a late first-half touchdown on the Aggies.
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at email@example.com.