Mizzou QBs Expected to Challenge AU Defense

One of the key matchups for the SEC Championship Game will be how Auburn's defense performs against Missouri's pass-run threat quarterbacks.

Auburn, Ala.--Quarterbacks who can run the football have given Auburn's defense problems this year.

Because of that defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson is expecting to see Missouri employ that strategy on Saturday at the SEC Football Championship Game in Atlanta.

Starting QB James Franklin has 91 carries this season for the SEC East champs. He has gains of 507 yards in nine games with a net total of 412 yards. The senior is averaging 4.5 yards per carry and has run for three touchdowns.

"He is really good," Johnson said. "He is a big 230-pound guy. When he pulls it down he is not easy to tackle."

Maty Mauk, a 6-1, 200 redshirt freshman, started four games this year while Franklin was injured. He has gained 217 yards on 38 carries and has netted 156 yards. Mauk is averaging 4.1 yards per run and has one rushing touchdown.

"I think they have been very conservative with both of them and letting them run because at one point Franklin got hurt and they didn't want to get him hurt," Johnson said.

"All of the sudden he's hurt again and Mauk didn't have a backup so they were scared to let him run," Johnson added. "Now they've got both of them, and they are both healthy, and the championship is on the line, my feeling is they are probably going to let them run when they need to run. They are not going to worry about it because they know they have got another one."

Missouri's offense was effective with Mauk calling the plays while Franklin was out and the redshirt got snaps in Missouri's victory last Saturday vs. Texas A&M. Asked if the defense has to make adjustments when Mauk is in the game, Johnson said, "No, he is just as good. He may have a few routes he likes to throw better, but the route packages don't change and the run game doesn't change. He's very good."

Ellis Johnson

Auburn's defensive coordinator said another challenge will be containing Missouri's tall wide receiver group led by 6-6, 220 Dorial Green-Beckham, who has 49 catches for 686 yards and 10 touchdowns, and 6-4, 200 LaDamian Washington, who has 44 catches for 824 yards and 10 scores.

Asked about the secondary matchups for Auburn, the coach said, "It's going to be tough. We may have to put some elevator heels on them or something. What are you going to do? They're not going to grow two inches before Saturday."

Kickoff for the SEC Championship Game will be shortly after 3 p.m. CST on Saturday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. This will be the first time Missouri and Auburn have played since the 1973 Sun Bowl, a 34-17 victory for Mizzou.

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