Mason And Tigers Get Running Game Going

Auburn's running game was a bright spot for the Tigers in the win over ULM.

Auburn, Ala.—One of the points of emphasis heading into the 2012 season for the Auburn offense and new coordinator Scot Loeffler was developing a consistent running game. Through three games this year that has been one of the few bright spots for the Tigers as the trio of Tre Mason, Onterio McCalebb and Mike Blakely have been the most productive part of the offense for Coach Gene Chizik's team.

Averaging 175.3 yards per contest, Auburn had its best rushing total of the year in the win over ULM on Saturday as the Tigers pounded the Warhawks for 255 yards on just 42 attempts. McCalebb led the way with 128 yards on 11 runs while Mason added 90 yards on 22 carries. Throw in 32 yards on just two carries for Blakely and the group finally had the production it has been looking for this season.

"We were recruited to make plays," Mason said. "Onterio, as a senior, he's just doing his part, and he's doing it well. We're just coming together, trying to progress and get better as a team.

"Yeah, it was great to get in the right groove," he added. "Our offensive line played great, they come off the ball very hard, and Onterio, if he gets a seam, he's going to take it for a couple of yards. We got in our groove a little early, and we're going to try to continue this."

After rushing for 106 yards on 14 carries in the season opener against Clemson, Mason got just four touches the first three quarters last week against Mississippi State. Getting the opportunity to get into a rhythm running the ball on Saturday, he pointed out that's what it's all about as a running back.

"I love this work load," he said. "Somebody's got to do it, and I stepped up to the plate. We've got to do it as a committee. Our running back room has a lot of talent between Onterio, myself, Mike Blakely, Corey Grant and Robenson Therezie's new, but he's a natural. We're trying to do it together and progress as a group."

The offense will only go as far as the running backs and quarterback Kiehl Frazier can take it this season, something that has been painfully obvious at times early in 2012. Hitting 10-18 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown, the sophomore made a crucial mistake in the second half with an interception that helped the visitors make a comeback. While he was far from perfect, Mason said Frazier impressed him with the quarterback's play against ULM.

"He looked like he played more relaxed," Mason said. "I spoke to him before the game, and I told him, go back to your normal ways. Play like what got you here, and he seemed to do that."

Taking a step forward in the first win of the season, Auburn must pick it up even more with LSU coming in to Jordan-Hare Stadium for a 6 p.m. CDT Saturday kickoff this weekend. Auburn will go into the contest a heavy underdog in a game that will be televised by ESPN.

Despite not being expected to win against an opponent off to a 3-0 start, Mason said the 1-2 Tigers will just have to work hard and see what happens. "That's where our mindset is now," he said. "This game is over (ULM win). We played a great team, and we played hard all the way through the end, but you know, next week, LSU's coming in here and we've got to get ready to play them."

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