Aug 31, 2013; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers running back Tre Mason (21) is tackled by Washington State Cougars safety Deone Bucannon (20) at Jordan Hare Stadium. The Tigers defeated the Cougars 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports
Late August, Eastern Alabama, the emerging joy of a new college football season, bringing the irrational hope that all teams and fan bases realize leading up to the first kick off of the year. For the second time in about a decade the Wazzu faithful brought their guarded optimism to Jordan-Hare, greeted by Auburn fans, who, by all accounts, were hunkering down for a storm.
The reception for the Cougs was congenial, even warm, an unlikely welcome to any football opponent. The confidence that was present in 2006 was not nearly as evident this trip. The Auburn victory probably left the Cougs with more hope than the Tigers, but this was the beginning of something special.
We began the season unaware of how to look at Auburn, reaching for Gus Malzahn’s tenancies, or hints from returning players. Who would we get? The nation did not begin to pay attention, either. If anyone continues to question the validity of early season (or even mid-season) rankings, evaluate Auburn’s rankings in 2013. War Eagle did not break the AP poll until October 13, 6-0, just beating Western Carolina. Victories over then #6 LSU and #24 Mizzou were already on their resume, but respect was just beginning to manifest.
The season’s opponent strength just escalated from there. Malzahn brought the Auburn faithful to distraction, finally boiling over with one of the greatest endings to a football game imaginable in the Iron Bowl.
Prior to the first kick, we in Pullman were hoping for a bowl game, we ac hieved that. ACU is not exactly sure what Auburn was hoping for, but anyone not wearing a navy jersey who claims they expected a trip to the National Championship is just dishonest. Malzahn won the Coach of the Year award, which historically has been a most improved award. Clearly that is deserved.
So again, we up here in Cougar Country are proud to have begun this trip with Auburn. Two teams in flux in August, both finding success, one finding it in a manner that was beyond prediction. Maybe we will meet in Pullman someday, maybe the Cougs will journey back to Alabama, we felt like honored guests, and would gladly reprise our trip. Please, though, next time, inform your establishments that Wazzu is coming, and to amend their beer orders accordingly.