Mason, No. 3 Auburn beat No. 5 Missouri 59-42

Tre Mason struck a pose – a Heisman Trophy pose.

Looks like the Auburn Tigers running back will get a shot at

something he wants even more.

A national title.

Mason rushed for 304 yards and four touchdowns, leading No. 3

Auburn to a wild 59-42 victory over No. 5 Missouri in a

Southeastern Conference title showdown Saturday that resembled a

video game.

Auburn (12-1) took care of business, then got the help it needed

to claim a spot in the BCS championship. No. 2 Ohio State lost to

Michigan State 34-24 in the Big Ten title game, which likely pushes

the Tigers up to face top-ranked Florida State in Pasadena. The

Seminoles routed Duke 45-7 in the Atlantic Coast Conference

championship.

”We won the SEC championship,” Auburn receiver Sammie Coates

said. ”What else do you want us to do?”

Added Mason: ”We feel like we beat the best teams …. We feel

like we deserve to be in the game.”

Missouri (11-2) should be in the mix for a New Year’s Day bowl,

with the Capital One, Cotton and Outback games among the possible

destinations.

But Auburn was the big winner on this day. The official

announcement won’t come until Sunday night, but there appears to be

no other outcome than Auburn-Florida State for No. 1.

”We’re playing our best football right now,” said Auburn coach

Gus Malzahn, making his pitch for Pasadena about the time Ohio

State was kicking off against Michigan State in Indianapolis. ”I

don’t know if any other team can say that.”

Auburn is certainly playing its best offensively. The Tigers set

an SEC championship record with 677 yards, including 545 on the

ground.

Mason had scoring runs of 7, 3 and 1 yards before bursting up

the middle on a 13-yard TD that clinched the victory with 4:22

remaining. He carried the ball a staggering 46 times, an easy

choice as the game’s MVP. He celebrated by breaking out the

familiar Heisman pose, his longshot candidacy getting a huge

boost.

”You’re looking at one of the top running backs in college

football,” Malzahn said. ”He was a warrior today.

Unbelievable.”

In a game where neither team played a lick of defense, Auburn

finally stopped Missouri on fourth-and-1 deep in its own territory,

setting up Mason’s final score. Chris Davis broke up the pass, not

quite as thrilling as his 109-yard return of a missed field goal to

beat Alabama, but another huge play for the nation’s biggest

turnaround team.

Auburn, which was 3-9 a year ago and didn’t win a game in the

SEC, claimed the title in its first year under Malzahn. The Tigers

didn’t even need a dramatic finish to do it, holding Missouri

scoreless in the final quarter while Mason notched two more TDs to

break open a game that was close most of the way.

Missouri had its own impressive bounce-back after struggling its

first year in the SEC. But coach Gary Pinkel’s team was denied a

quick championship in its new league after leaving the Big 12,

unable to slow – must less stop – Auburn’s dynamic offense.

”There’s a real frustration that comes over you on defense when

they’re coming after you over and over and over again,” Pinkel

said. ”We had trouble stopping it, obviously, and couldn’t get it

fixed.”

James Franklin passed for 303 yards and three touchdowns, while

Dorial Green-Beckham hauled in six passes for 144 yards and a

couple of scores. Missouri piled up 534 yards – the teams combined

for 1,211 yards in a conference supposedly known for defense – but

it wasn’t nearly enough against Auburn’s hurry-up spread.

Coming into the game, Missouri was one of the top teams in the

nation against the run and ranked second in the SEC behind Alabama.

The most yards they had given up on the ground was 184 the previous

week in a victory over 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel

and Texas A&M.

Mason had more yards than that in the first half, putting up 195

by the time he trotted to the locker room and just 6 yards off the

SEC championship game record. He broke the mark set by LSU’s Justin

Vincent in 2003 on the second play of the second half – and kept

right on going from there.

”I’ve never had holes that big to run through,” Mason said,

crediting the guys in the trenches. ”No one expected 300 yards. I

didn’t expect it.”

Quarterback Nick Marshall shook off two early fumbles, one of

which Missouri returned for a touchdown. He ran for 101 yards and a

touchdown and passed for 132 yards and another score.

The lead changed hands seven times. Missouri’s last gasp was

Franklin’s 5-yard touchdown run, followed by a two-point

conversion, that closed the gap to 45-42 heading to the final

period. But Auburn dominated the final 15 minutes behind the play

of Mason.

Late in the game, when Auburn had finally wrapped it up, Mason

got a hug on the sideline from Auburn’s greatest back, Bo

Jackson.

”He’s one of the better players ever to wear an Auburn

helmet,” Malzahn said, referring to Mason, not Bo.

”Thanks, coach,” Mason said.

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