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AU has renewed purpose, passion

It’s all right - really, it is.

I know a lot of you were expecting more. In some way, I was, too.

I thought the offense would be more efficient. But almost 300 yards rushing is highly significant.

You can do a lot of things when you rush for that many yards. That’s called getting your edge back, an Auburn priority entering the season.

And that’s why Auburn should have scored more than 31 points in its victory Saturday night over Washington State.

Watching Nick Marshall, I thought he might have been a little too excited in the first half. That’s understandable.

It was his first start at quarterback for a major college team, and he was making it in front of a crowd of 85,000, far more than anything he experienced at Garden City Community College.

He’ll settle down, and he’ll start showing more and more flashes of the quarterback that made him a celebrated JUCO recruit.

Let’s remember this: He didn’t go through spring training. His first hands-on exposure to head coach Gus Malzahn’s offense was about a month ago, when Auburn started preseason practice.

Remember this, too: Offenses, particularly those under a first-year head coach, usually start slowly.

It will be the third game, maybe the fourth, before we know what kind of team Auburn has. By then, Auburn will have played Mississippi State and LSU.

The Mississippi State game is one of the most important games Auburn will play this season. Win that game and Auburn still has a chance to win seven or eight games.

For that to happen, though, the defense will have to make some improvements - at end and linebacker, in particular.

Defensive tackle Montravius Adams was the most impressive defense lineman against Washington State. The pocket didn’t appear to collapse until he entered the game.

Adams is a difference-maker, for sure. Perhaps more than any other defensive tackle, he has a chance to bring pressure, the ingredient that was missing for much of Auburn’s season-opener.

Washington State threw 65 passes and Auburn had only two sacks - by Adams on his first collegiate play - and Ben Bradley. That’s too few, particularly against an offensive line comprised largely of former walk-ons.

The secondary, though, has a chance to be one of the better ones at Auburn in recent years. But the linebackers remain a concern, just as most people expected.

Nevertheless, Auburn managed to hold Washington State to three points in the second half. That’s even more impressive considering that Washington State ran 23 more plays from scrimmage and had an almost-three minute advantage in time of possession.

The effort, coaching and conditioning are there. Good things usually happen when those things are in place.

I predicted seven or eight wins for Auburn this season. I didn’t see anything Saturday night that caused me to change my thinking.

Marshall will make improvement as the season progresses. Few coaches in the country can match Malzahn’s history with quarterbacks.

I think the Auburn faithful has good reason to be excited about Malzahn’s wide-open style.

But the biggest reason to be excited is that purpose and passion have returned to Auburn football.

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