Tigers' Rushing Game Mashes Mizzou For Title

The Auburn football team rushed for 545 yards on the way to a 59-42 victory over Missouri in the SEC Football Championship Game.

Atlanta, Ga.--There have been a lot of spectacular football games in Auburn football history. The Tigers finished the regular season with two of them and continued it into the postseason with a wild 59-42 victory over Missouri in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday.

The numbers at the Georgia Dome were off the charts for Coach Gus Malzahn's team.

59–The most points in SEC Championship Game history, breaking the record (55) by the 2010 Auburn team scored led by Cam Newton.

304–The number of rushing yards by junior Tre Mason, who set an Auburn an SEC Championship Game record on the way to being named SEC Championship Game Most Valuable Player. He was just three yards shy of AU's school record of 307 set by Curtis Kuykendall vs. Miami in 1944.

21–The number of rushing touchdowns that Mason has this season, one better than Newton's school record, after rushing for four more against Missouri, which came into the contest allowing just 119 rushing yards per game.

46–Mason's new Auburn record for rushing yards in a game, five more than the previous high.

545–The net rushing yards for Auburn, another school record. The Tigers averaged 7.4 yards per rush.

677–Auburn's total offense number, the most in SEC Championship Game history, is the most by the Tigers vs. an SEC team. It also is the fourth highest total in AU history.

7–AU's SEC Championship Game record number of rushing touchdowns.

6–The number of lead changes on Saturday in Atlanta before Auburn moved ahead for good on a two-yard run by Corey Grant to make the score 38-34 with 3:21 left in the third quarter.

30–Auburn's first down total, an SEC Championship Game record.

74–AU's number of running plays, a title game record.

5--Auburn has five wins versus ranked teams, the most of any team in the top six of the BCS standings.

9--The Tigers have won nine straight games with five of those coming against ranked teams. Three of those wins came over Top 10 opposition.

1–Gus Malzahn is the first coach to win the SEC Championship in his first season as head coach and just the third in the history of the league to do it.

Auburn continued the greatest season-to-season turnaround in school history, improving its record to 12-1 after going 3-9 last year.

"I told the guys I am not leaving Atlanta without a ring," said Mason, who also set a title game record with his 46 rushing attempts.

Tre Mason had one of the most impressive games in Auburn history on Saturday.

Mason got plenty of help from his offensive line, who consistently opened running room for the junior back as well as Nick Marshall, who rushed for 101 yards on 16 carries. Grant netted 65 and one touchdown on five carries. Ricardo Louis gained 43 yards on three carries and Cameron Artis-Payne ran the ball twice for 36 yards with a 21-yard scoring run.

"We have got the best damn offensive line coach in the country and you can print that," said redshirt freshman offensive guard Alex Kozan as he hugged OL?coach J.B. Grimes, who was beaming with pride over what his guys had helped the Tigers accomplish. Grimes hugged Kozan back and said, "That is because I have got the best O-line."

Asked how Auburn was able to become SEC champion after not winning a league game the previous season, Malzahn said, "All I can explain is since I got there how our team bought into what we asked them to do and have gotten better and better and better. Like I said, it's very hard to explain.

"After the season we will look back and there is a lot of things to be proud of, but our players have found a way to improve," he added. "We are playing our best football right now. I don't know if a lot of teams around the country could say that."

After Auburn won the toss and deferred, Missouri went three-and-out, but got the ball back at the Auburn 43 when defensive end Kony Ealy's blindside hit on Marshall forced a fumble Mizzou recovered at the AU 43.

Missouri managed a first down before setting on a 42-yard field goal by Andrew Baggett with 10:58 on the clock.

Auburn responded immediately by driving 75 yards on seven plays. The score came on a 38-yard pass from Marshall to Sammie Coates.

Missouri regained the lead on the next possession, matching AU's drive by also moving 75 yards on seven plays. The TD came on a 28-yard pass to Dorial Green-Beckham.

It took Auburn just 1:31 to regain the lead at 14-10 on a five-play, 75-yard drive. Marshall scored at left end on a nine-yard run with 4:09 left in the opening quarter.

Missouri got the first points of the second quarter as E.J. Gaines returned Marshall's fumble 11 yards for a score with 13:11 left in the period.

Auburn responded moving 75 yards on eight plays with Mason running in for seven yards out at the 10:25 mark.

Missouri answered with a 36-yard field goal at 7:19, but fell further behind when AU raced 79 yards on four plays in just 47 seconds, all on runs by Mason. He started the possession by racing 52 yards at right end before bulling in from three yards out with 6:26 left in the half.

The Tigers had a chance to increase the margin, moving to a first down at the Missouri 24. However, they went backwards from there with no gain on a Mason run, two screen passes to Coates for negative yardage and a holding penalty, knocking AU out of field goal range.

Missouri got the football back at its eight-yard line with 1:10 and two timeouts left. That was enough time for Mizzou to get off the goal line and take a deep shot, which it hit on a 55-yard pass to Green-Beckham. That cut Auburn's lead to 28-27 at intermission.

Halftime Numbers:

Auburn rushed for 282 yards on 38 carries and gained 94 passing yards as Marshall hit all six of his throws. Mason led the ground assault with 195 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries.

Missouri rushed for 128 yards on 21 carries while gaining 176 yards through the air. Franklin hit 11-17 passes for two touchdowns and threw one interception.

There was plenty of scoring in the second half, too, but it started slowly on that front with nobody getting on the board until the 8:17 mark in the third quarter when Cody Parkey hit a career-long 52-yard field goal to make the score 31-27 Auburn.

Missouri re-gained the lead with an impressive drive, moving 75 yards on seven plays with Marcus Murphy catching a 10-yard pass for the TD.

Auburn answered immediately, racing 75 yards on six plays with Grant scoring from the two to make the score 48-34.

Malzahn's Tigers built the lead into double figures with a 15-yard by Artis-Payne to cap a drive that covered 54 yards in five plays after a good defensive stand. That moved AU ahead 45-34 with 31 seconds left in the third quarter.

Just when it looked like the pro-Auburn crowd at the Georgia Dome could breathe easier, Missouri's Henry Josey found a gap in the AU defense and raced 65 yards. With nine seconds left in the half Franklin scored on a five-yard QB keeper and did the same thing on the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 45-42.

However, Auburn showed its persistence by driving 75 yards for another score, this one on eight plays, with Mason getting into the end zone on fourth and goal from the one. That put the Tigers up 52-42.

Auburn added an insurance touchdown with 4:22 left on a 13-yard run, the first play after the AU defense stopped Missouri on downs when a desperation fourth down pass fell incomplete.

"Congratulations to Auburn," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "I thought they played really well, certainly on both sides of the football.

"In the third quarter it was a pretty tight game," he said after his team fell to 11-2. "They did the things necessary in the fourth quarter to win.

"They have a very difficult scheme on offense, and we still had our struggles, and we had opportunities to score and we didn't," the veteran coach added.

Worth Noting, Part 1: Tre Mason, Jason Campbell (20040 and Cam Newton (2010) are the three AU players to win SEC Championship Game MVP.

Worth Noting, Part 2: Mason's 304 rushing yards is an SEC Championship Game record, breaking the mark of 201 set by LSU's Justin Vincent in 2003.

Worth Noting, Part 3–Mason's four rushing TDs are an SEC Championship Game record.

Worth Noting, Part 4-- Auburn has three wins against Top 10 teams, including consecutive wins against the No. 1 and No. 5 teams in the country. The Tigers have the highest strength of schedule (Sagarin) of any of the teams in the top six of the BCS standings. No other team in college football this season has defeated two top-five ranked teams and 10 of Auburn's 13 opponents are bowl eligible, the most of any team in the top 10 of the BCS standings.

Stat of the Game: The 101 points scored broke the SEC Championship Game record of 73 in Auburn's 56-17 victory over South Carolina in 2010.

Game Statistics

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