The SEC season could end no other way.
Starting with the second week of the season when Georgia beat South Carolina 41-30, the SEC hasn’t been the old defense-wins-championships league all year. It continued when Johnny Manziel and AJ McCarron matched each other drive for drive in College Station. Auburn, as it did in 2010, has become the center of offenses running wild and teams producing crazy finishes in the SEC this season.
The Tigers wrapped up one of the biggest turnarounds in college football history with a wild 59-42 win over Missouri for the SEC championship, only a year after going winless in the league.
The Auburn run game has been a machine all year, but on Saturday it was unstoppable. With 59 points, Auburn alone outscored 15 SEC Championship Games. Combined, Auburn and Missouri scored 101 points, 26 more than the previous highest scoring SEC Championship Game in 1996.
Among records broken in Atlanta on Saturday:
Carries: Auburn’s Tre Mason, 46
Previous record: 31, Jamal Lewis, Tennessee (1997)
Rushing yards: Mason, 304
Previous record: 201, Justin Vincent, LSU (2003)
All-purpose yards: Mason, 312
Previous record: 227, Darvin Adams, Auburn (2010)
Touchdowns: Mason, 4
Previous record: Three, three different players
Scoring: Mason, 24
Previous record: 18, three different players
Longest field goal: Auburn’s Cody Parkey, 52 yards
Previous record: 51, three different players
Most rushes: Auburn, 74
Previous record: 53, Alabama (2009)
Rushing yards: Auburn, 545
Previous record: 350, Alabama (2012)
Rushing touchdowns: Auburn, 7
Previous record: Three, six different teams
Total offense: Auburn, 677
Previous record: 589, Auburn (2010)
Most points: Auburn, 59
Previous record: 56, Auburn (2010)
Most combined points: Auburn and Missouri, 101
Previous record: 75, Florida and Alabama (1996)
First downs rushing: 26, Auburn
Previous record: 18, Alabama (2012)
Total plays: 85, Auburn (tie)
Three Things We Learned from Auburn 59, Missouri 42
Gus Malzahn is already one of the nation’s elite coaches. No matter what happens with Ohio State and the BCS standings, Malzahn in two seasons has already put himself into the discussion of one of the nation’s elite coaches. It’s tough not to make a big deal of the one-year turnaround Malzahn has had at Auburn. The Tigers went 0-8 in the SEC and were outgained by more than 200 yards per game in league games. Auburn averaged 235 yards in SEC games last season, a mark the Tigers exceeded in the first half against Missouri. And this was not a Mizzou team accustomed to giving up chunks of points. Missouri had been allowing 3.6 yards per carry this season and hadn’t allowed 28 points in a game all season. Auburn won the most unlikely of SEC championships, but Malzahn has been a part of three conference champions in four seasons. With one season at Arkansas State and one at Auburn, Malzahn’s ability to sustain a program will be the only remaining question, but many of the players who picked up nearly 700 yards on Missouri were recruited to play for Malzahn as an offensive coordinator.
Tre Mason may find his way to New York. Jameis Winston has all but sealed the Heisman Trophy, but Mason is a perfect example of why the unofficial field shouldn’t be set in October. Not that Mason should beat out Winston, but the Auburn tailback was nowhere to be found in the conversation entering Saturday. He wasn’t even a finalist for the Doak Walker Award for the nation’s top running back. Mason should be a contender for a host of postseason awards after rushing for 304 yards and four touchdowns on 46 carries against Missouri in the SEC Championship Game. Missouri hadn’t even allowed 200 yards rushing to any team in a game this season. Over the course of the season, perhaps Mason and Nick Marshall are equally as responsible for the success of the Auburn offense. But Marshall’s SEC Championship Game breakout gave him an average of 156.9 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns in his last eight SEC games. While voters were reaching for Andre Williams and Ka’Deem Carey in recent weeks, maybe Mason was the running back they were seeking.
Special teams were Auburn’s secret weapon. This is still worth reiterating even after Chris Davis’ miracle missed field goal return to beat Alabama. No one would have confused the SEC Championship Game as one where field position was a key, but Auburn can do that, too. Auburn punter Steven Clark pinned Missouri inside its own 10-yard line three times, including twice in the second half. Chris Davis had 22-yard punt return, and Cody Parkey split his two field goal attempts outside of 50 yards. In a game where defensive stops were at a premium these little things made major difference.
The SEC season could end no other way.