No. 5 Missouri overwhelmed by No. 3 Auburn, 59-42

Missouri proved it’s SEC worthy in only its second year in the

league.

The Tigers just weren’t ready for Auburn’s up-tempo running

game, and that was a devastating realization with the Southeastern

Conference championship on the line.

James Franklin passed for 303 yards and three touchdowns and No.

5 Missouri kept pace with No. 3 Auburn through three quarters

before falling 59-42 in a wild SEC title game on Saturday.

The quarterback also ran for a touchdown but Missouri couldn’t

match the relentless Auburn offense led by Tre Mason’s 304 yards

rushing and four touchdowns.

Coach Gary Pinkel said Missouri struggled to contain quarterback

Nick Marshall’s option reads and leadership in Auburn’s fast-paced,

no-huddle attack.

”I think what happens is they try to really get going fast, get

the fastball rolling, and your defense gets a little frustrated

because you’re giving up 10 yards, nine yards,” Pinkel said. ”And

then guess what? You start making mistakes. You don’t get the gaps.

You don’t get to do things you need to do. That’s just not a very

good situation to be in.”

Asked what it takes to stop Auburn, Pinkel said ”Everybody has

problems with it. You know what, I’m the wrong person to ask

because I’d have stopped it if I could have.”

Missouri trailed only 45-42 entering the fourth quarter.

The Tigers (11-2) made a big improvement from a 5-7 finish in

2012. Missouri satisfied to just win the SEC East.

”They’re a great offense and we’re a great offense and they put

everything together and we came up a little short,” said running

back Henry Josey, who rushed for 123 yards, including a 65-yarder,

on only nine carries.

Missouri is expected to land in a New Year’s Day bowl. The

Capital One, Cotton and Outback games are possible destinations.

But the promise of a high-profile bowl didn’t lift the somber

postgame mood of the Missouri players.

”They’re crushed,” said Pinkel of his players. ”I mean, they

are absolutely crushed. And that’s good. I mean, that’s OK. They’re

used to winning, and this game was real important to them.

Hopefully, we get in the position again, and we’ll play better.

Maybe we’ll handle it a little bit better.”

The pace of the game was a surprise, especially for a Missouri

defense that ranked second in the SEC with its average of 19.4

points allowed. Auburn set SEC championship game records with 677

total yards and 545 yards rushing.

”We went out and played the same way we’ve been playing all

year,” said defensive end Kony Ealy, who had a sack and two forced

fumbles in the first half.

”Our game plan was great. The coaches did a great job of

preparing us for the game. It’s on us. When it’s all said and done,

we didn’t go out and play to the best of our ability.”

Auburn (12-1) kept alive its hopes of playing for the national

championship.

”We deserve it,” said Auburn receiver Sammie Coates. ”We won

the SEC championship. What else do you want us to do?”

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.

Mason had 46 carries and was selected the game’s MVP.

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

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

Unbelievable.”

Missouri’s offense also put up impressive numbers, including 534

total yards. Dorial Green-Beckham was Franklin’s top target with

six receptions for 144 yards and two touchdowns.

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

offense.

Before Saturday, the most yards rushing allowed by Missouri was

184 in last week’s win over 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny

Manziel and Texas A&M.

The lead changed hands five times before Auburn eased ahead

28-20 on a lightning-quick 79-yard drive, needing only four plays

and 53 seconds to set up Mason’s 3-yard scoring run.

Auburn had a chance to seize control, forcing a Missouri punt

and hurrying back to its end of the field. After Mason was stuffed

for no gain, Auburn curiously started throwing the ball. Two

screens to Sammie Coates were resulted in a loss of 5 yards total,

and Auburn was called for holding on a deep throw. The Tigers wound

up punting, giving Missouri one more chance to pull closer with a

little over a minute remaining before halftime.

Franklin took advantage. He guided Missouri out to the 45 before

going deep, hitting Green-Beckham in stride for a 55-yard touchdown

with 18 seconds remaining. Missouri kicked the extra point and

trailed 28-27 at the break.