In front of a record crowd of 83,401, the Auburn Tigers put on a show for the fans that flocked to Jordan-Hare Stadium for the dawning of the Gus Malzahn era, and for one final rolling of the famed oaks at Toomer’s Corner.
Murky is never a good way to describe your team’s quarterback situation, but after Kiehl Frazier looked like the same player that was benched last year and Jonathan Wallace demonstrated some questionable decision-making, that’s the spot they find themselves in.
Frazier may have entered the game with a slight lead over Wallace, but may have found himself behind last year’s starter afterwards. Frazier completed 10-of-16 passes for 112 yards, while Wallace completed 19-of-26 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown, and looked to settle down after a rough start.
However, I think this race is far from over and may not be decided until the last week of August before the season gets underway.
Got a starter at QB? Malzahn: “I’m big-picturing it … but it’ll be good for us to watch on film and see who executed best.”
— Brandon Marcello (@bmarcello) April 20, 2013
The other position in the Tigers backfield that did provide some clarity was at running back, where Cameron Artis-Payne finished with 164 yards from scrimmage and walked away with MVP honors. He had the play of the day after he snatched a bad Frazier pass one-handed and took it 42 yards to set up a score.
Wallace compared him to former Auburn back Ben Tate after the game and if he lives up to that comparison, he will have a very successful career in the Tigers backfield. The JUCO transfer rushed for more than 2,000 yards last season and should combine with incumbent starter Tre Mason to form a steadying presence, while whoever lines up at quarterback gets comfortable.
Defensively, another player emerged in the form of Justin Garrett at the crucial “Star” position in Ellis Johnson’s 4-2-5 defense. The hybrid linebacker-defensive back is asked to do a lot in this scheme, and Garrett seems up to the challenge.
The record crowd at Auburn showed that the community is sticking together and like a family through thick and thin. Those in attendance were able to say hello to some new faces like Artis-Payne, Garrett and see an old familiar face in Malzahn, while saying goodbye to one of the best traditions in sports.
The mood was much more celebratory than somber, although there were some with heavy hearts at Toomer’s Corner. But, optimism reigns in Auburn and the primary reason is Malzahn, who can say he was the head coach for the most memorable A-Day in the program’s history.