Tigers Put On the Pads to Prepare for Mizzou

Comments from coaches and players are featured as Auburn prepares for the SEC Football Championship Game.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn football team moved into high gear with its preparations for Saturday's SEC Championship Game vs. Missouri with a full pads workout on Tuesday.

The Tigers worked out for more than two hours at their indoor facility on a rainy evening as they began installing the game plan for Saturday's matchup of two 11-1 teams at the Georgia Dome.

Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee noted that the Tigers are impressed with what Missouri has done this year and said the Auburn coaches and players know they have a major challenge. Lashlee added that was reflected with the tone of practice on Tuesday after the players had their mandatory day off on Monday.

"It's week 13 and our guys have gotten into good practice habits probably the last six or seven weeks," he said. "It was pretty business-like tonight. There was not a lot of messing around.

"They had a very solid practice and went about their business," Lashlee pointed out. "I think they are getting to the point where they know what is at stake and obviously are very confident now. I thought it was a good night."

Lashlee and the Auburn coaches have spent a lot of time studying video of Missouri. "They are really good," he said.

"The first thing that stands out to me is that they are just a really good overall team defense. They are extremely disciplined. You don't seem to get a lot of cheap ones, which I know has kind of been the defensive coordinator's history--a lot of bend but don't break scenarios.

"They are very disciplined, they are always where they are supposed to be and they are really good tacklers," Lashlee said.

Rhett Lashlee

"What really stands out after that is their front four is really good. Their defensive ends, the Sam kid (Michael Sam) and Kony Ealy, and they have got the two other guys who play about as much as them, those guys are really active. I think Sam is leading the league in sacks and tackles for loss.

"They get after you and the inside guys are big. They have got a couple of six-foot-five guys who are long. They are violent and explosive. That front four really concerns me to be honest with you."

Lashlee said that Missouri's linebackers make a lot of plays and noted that the defense has 18 interceptions, which is the most of any SEC team. "They do a lot of things well," he said.

Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said that his group made way too many mistakes for his liking in Auburn's 34-28 victory over Alabama. He said the Tigers need to get those issues resolved this week before playing an opponent that he said is very effective both running and passing the football. "They have played an SEC schedule and they are right up at the top (statistically) rushing and passing."

Johnson pointed out he really liked the effort from the defense vs. Alabama, but not the execution. "The things that we do during the course of games to create the problems have got to stop or we are not going to win a championship," he said.

"I tip my hat to our players because when they really had to get it done we got it done," Johnson added. "The last three possessions started on our 25 and our 35 and their 30, and they got no points. That is certainly a credit to our kids and their effort and their heart, but we are putting a lot of yards out there, a lot of time of possession, a lot of things we can do to be a better defense."

Gus Malzahn has praised Jay Prosch for his role in Auburn's running attack and did it again this week, calling the senior the best fullback in college football.

Asked about that comment, Prosch said, "I just know one thing about myself and that is I will play extremely hard and I try to be the most physical player I can be every game.

"I try not to think about any type of pain or injury, but just play fearless," he said. "I think that is a lot of the reason why I am where I am today because of playing with that kind of mentality. I sell out for my team. When you play like that, there is no other choice but to be good at what you do. I think that is really what makes me different that other players--maybe."

Tre Mason (21) breaks free for a big gainer in the second quarter of Saturday's victory over Alabama after getting a handoff from Nick Marshall (14) and a block from Jay Prosch (40).

Prosch helped the Tigers rush for 296 yards on Saturday against the Alabama defense, which was allowing opponents an average of just 91 rushing yards per game.

"It just makes us feel great as a unit, it makes us feel more like a team," Prosch said of the offense's success in the 34-28 victory over the Tide that earned the Tigers a spot in the SEC Championship Game.

"We all count on each other and we make it work together," the fullback said. "It really brings you closer together when you've got a group of guys and you are all doing something special together."

Prosch is the only Auburn player who has competed against Missouri. That came when he was a freshman playing for the University of Illinois.

"That was my first college start," Prosch says. "My first game ever for Illinois.

"I remember the game and where we played and stuff, but not much about actually playing in the game," he adds. "I think I was so excited for it to be my first game and I was nervous and stuff. I don't remember too much about it, but I know that they are a good team. It will be exciting."

Prosch said he has respect for Missouri, which has an 11-1 record coming into Saturday's game. Mizzou is 7-1 in SEC play.

"Missouri has a very good defensive line and a very good defense, but overall I think that we're going to find a way to move the ball no matter how we have to do it," the fullback says.

In other news and notes:

*Backup linebacker Javiie Mitchell missed Tuesday's practice. He suffered what Johnson said was a "slight concussion" making a tackle vs. Alabama. The coach said Mitchell is expected to practice later this week and "be ready to roll" for Saturday's game.

*Saturday's game will start shortly after 3 p.m. CST at the Georgia Dome. TV coverage is on CBS with Verne Lundquist doing the play-by-play, Gary Danielson will be the color analyst and Tracy Wolfson will be the sideline reporter.

*In addition to coverage by play-by-play man Rod Bramblett, analyst Stan White, sideline reporter Quentin Riggins and studio host Paul Ellen on the Auburn Radio Network, the game will be carried nationally on the WestwoodOne network. It is also available on Sirius Channel 92 and XM Channel 199.

*The Tigers are making their fifth appearance in SEC Championship Game. After losing the 1997 game to Tennessee and the 2000 contest vs. Florida the Tigers defeated Tennessee in 2004 and South Carolina in 2010. Missouri, in just its second season in the SEC, played in the 2007 and 2008 Big 12 Conference Championship Games under the direction of Coach Gary Pinkel, losing both matchups to the Sooners.

*Auburn is fifth nationally this week in rushing yards per game at 318.3. Missouri is No. 2 in the SEC with 236.9 yards per contest.

*Tre Mason has taken over the SEC lead in rushing yards per game at 109.8. Jeremy Hill of LSU is No. 2 at 107.7 per contest. Mason also leads the SEC in points scored with 114 on 18 rushing touchdowns and one kickoff return for a score. Mason is two rushing TDs short of Cam Newton's single-season Auburn record.

Nick Marshall

*Nick Marshall is eighth in the league at 83.8 rushing yards per game. The junior needs 78 yards to become the third quarterback in Auburn history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, joining Jimmy Sidle (1963) and Newton (2010).

*Auburn and Missouri have played just once in football with Mizzou taking a 34-17 decision in the 1973 Sun Bowl. That Auburn team finished the regular season with a 6-5 record, but was just 2-5 in SEC games. Auburn helped Missouri in the bowl game by losing four fumbles and throwing an interception.

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