There were the touchdowns, sure. Yes, there was the junior college running back who rushed for more than 100 yards. But the thing that opened new coach Gus Malzahn's eyes Saturday was the crowd for Saturday's A-Day Game.
A spring record 83,401 fans watched the game that featured Malzahn's fast-paced offense and a renewed appreciation for the Tigers after a difficult 2012 season.
Were the Tigers energized? There were four touchdowns in the first quarter -- or double the amount in the entire 2012 game -- as the Orange beat the Blue 35-14. That didn't matter. This did: Newcomer Cameron Artis-Payne rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown, mostly in the first half when the first and second-teams played, less so when he watched a second half played at a break-neck speed when the subs took over and when they didn't stop the clock.
Malzahn took note of the touchdowns and the final rolling of the oaks at Toomer's Corner. And of the unexpected large turnout.
"It's kind of overwhelming. Hat's off to our fans," Malzahn said. "I know that meant unbelievable amounts to our players and coaches. That's what really stood out to me.
The crowd was nice. The first half was important, too.
"We wanted to use this thing as still an evaluation, it wasn't just window dressing to make it nice for a spring game," Malzahn said. "We had 80 plays in the first half and tried to go fast and use our pace. We slowed it down the second half on purpose. We had seen what we wanted."
Quarterbacks Jonathan Wallace and Kiehl Frazier played for both teams. Wallace had the big plays and completed 18-of-26 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns. Frazier hit 10-of-16 passes for 125 yards one TD.
Artis-Payne had 18 carries on the way to his 117 yards.
"He made some really good runs. He's a big downhill back. He's gotten better," Malzahn said.
Tre Mason, a 1,000-yard rusher last season, was limited to 11 carries and 60 yards after dealing with an injury the last two weeks. Each scored a touchdown.
"That was really the first live work since he got injured. He wasn't 100 percent, but he got in there and played hard and did some good things," Malzahn said.
Corey Grant, who had won praise this spring, didn't play because of a fever.
For all the offense, it was the defense that scored first when safety Justin Garrett scooped up a wayward shotgun snapped and scored on a 29-yard run.
The offense took over for the rest of the half. Artis-Payne scored on a 27-yard run, Wallace hit Brandon Fulse with a 17-yard touchdown after a great pump fake, Frazier followed with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Trovon Reed, then Frazier ran it in from 7 yards out. Wallace hit Dimitri Reese with a 28-yard touchdown pass. Mason finished it off with a 4-yard run. All in the first half.
It was enough... for Saturday.
Auburn practices again Tuesday and Wednesday.
"I think it's very important, especially for us to grade the scrimmage and come back and try to get corrections in the last two practices so they'll have a good foundation going into the summer," Malzahn said.
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