Auburn vs. Missouri: 10 Things We Learned in 2013 SEC Championship Game

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistDecember 7, 2013

Auburn vs. Missouri: 10 Things We Learned in 2013 SEC Championship Game

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    Tre Mason opened the eyes of some Heisman voters, but more importantly to him, Auburn won the 2013 SEC Championship.
    Tre Mason opened the eyes of some Heisman voters, but more importantly to him, Auburn won the 2013 SEC Championship.Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

    The 2013 SEC Championship Game showcased an offensive battle between the Auburn Tigers and Missouri Tigers.

    In a game that featured an SEC title-game record 101 points—shattering the old mark of 75, per ESPN Stats & Info—Auburn emerged victorious, 59-42.

    One season after failing to win an SEC contest, Auburn earned a very impressive conference championship. Tre Mason ran for 304 yards and four touchdowns, and the Tigers scored seven rushing touchdowns.

    Missouri quarterback James Franklin threw for 303 yards and three scores, but it wasn't enough for the second-year SEC program to earn the win.

    Auburn is now awaiting its fate, wondering if the 17-point win is enough to boost the team into the final BCS National Championship Game.

The Auburn Rushing Attack Was Outstanding

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    Tre Mason had enormous running lanes throughout the game.
    Tre Mason had enormous running lanes throughout the game.Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

    Missouri's defense entered the game allowing 119.1 yards per game, but the Auburn offensive line was stellar.

    Auburn called 74 running plays compared to 11 passes and racked up a staggering 545 yards on the ground.

    In the first half alone, Tre Mason ran for 195 yards and two touchdowns. The junior running back reached 207 yards early in the third quarter, and according to CBS Sports' Eye on CFB, that mark set a new SEC Championship Game record.

    Mason tallied 46 carries for 304 yards and four scores, punishing the Missouri defense all game long. Nick Marshall added 101 yards and a touchdown, though he did fumble twice.

    Corey Grant and Ricardo Louis spelled Mason, contributing 65 and 43 yards, respectively. Cameron Artis-Payne joined the party, bullying his way into the end zone.

Gus Malzahn Has More Guts Than You and Me

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    Gus Malzahn pulled out all the stops, and most of them worked.
    Gus Malzahn pulled out all the stops, and most of them worked.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    After Auburn took a 14-10 lead, head coach Gus Malzahn attempted a surprise onside kick, and it worked.

    Kicker Cody Parkey bounced the ball high into the air. After a few ricochets, he recovered the attempt. Though Parkey eventually missed a 54-yard field goal, Malzahn's aggressiveness set the tone for his Auburn team.

    Later, Auburn led by three points during the fourth quarter, and Malzahn elected to go for it on 4th-and-goal from the Missouri 1-yard line. Tre Mason repaid his coach's confidence, sneaking into the end zone and increasing the advantage to 10 points.

    The latter decision may not have been quite as bold, but the crucial touchdown made it a two-possession game.

Missouri Capitalized on Turnovers

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    E.J. Gaines put an exclamation point on his fumble return by diving into the end zone.
    E.J. Gaines put an exclamation point on his fumble return by diving into the end zone.Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

    Missouri made the most of its takeaways, scoring 10 points off two turnovers.

    Defensive end Kony Ealy forced both fumbles, and Missouri took an early lead with a field goal as a result of the first turnover.

    Later, E.J. Gaines scooped up the second loose ball and returned it 11 yards for six points.

    Ultimately, by converting turnovers into points, the Tigers kept the game close until the fourth quarter. Even though Auburn eventually won by 17 points, it was important that Missouri made the momentum-shifting plays.

Defense Was Rather Optional

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    Nick Marshall wasn't the only player running away from the defense. Everyone did.
    Nick Marshall wasn't the only player running away from the defense. Everyone did.John David Mercer-USA TODAY Spor

    Both teams head into bowl season after a stellar offensive game but an extremely porous defensive showing.

    A typically stout Missouri defense looked like a high school team, getting thrashed by Auburn for eight yards per play. Auburn averaged 7.4 yards per rushing attempt and converted 7-of-14 third downs, and its lone fourth-down conversion resulted in a touchdown.

    Of course, while no one accused Auburn of having a top-notch defense, Missouri racked up 534 offensive yards.

    With that being said, Auburn held Mizzou to 3-of-15 on third and fourth downs, forcing five punts and two turnovers on downs.

Auburn Engineered Long Drives

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    Nick Marshall and Tre Mason did not care where the drive started—they just went down and scored.
    Nick Marshall and Tre Mason did not care where the drive started—they just went down and scored.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Auburn racked up an impressive 59 points, but the Tigers did not just score on short drives.

    Nick Marshall and Tre Mason ran their way to six touchdown drives of at least 75 yards, and Missouri simply had no answer for the duo.

    Oh, and those six possessions took a combined 38 plays—or just 6.3 per drive, which means Auburn averaged 12 yards per snap.

    And that is hard for any team to overcome.

Sammie Coates Stepped Up Again

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    Marshall split the Missouri defenders with an absolute dime, and Sammie Coates reeled it in for a touchdown.
    Marshall split the Missouri defenders with an absolute dime, and Sammie Coates reeled it in for a touchdown.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    One week after Sammie Coates scored the game-tying touchdown on a long pass against Alabama, he opened the scoring versus Missouri.

    Coates hauled in a beautiful 38-yard touchdown from Marshall and also took a screen 54 yards, which set up another Auburn score.

    The sophomore was the only receiver to catch a pass during the first half, and he did not need to snag another ball for the rest of the game.

    In addition to his touchdown, Coates grabbed a season-high six catches and notched 94 yards.

Dorial Green-Beckham Continued to Be a Weapon

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    DGB was a menace to the Auburn secondary.
    DGB was a menace to the Auburn secondary.Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

    Dorial Green-Beckham was gifted two touchdowns.

    Although the ball clearly hit the ground and rolled, his first score was not reviewed.

    Then, with less than 30 seconds remaining before halftime, Green-Beckham outran the Auburn secondary, which was caught flat-footed by quarterback James Franklin.

    Nevertheless, the important thing is that the sophomore made the plays, putting 12 points on the board for Mizzou.

    Green-Beckham finished the game with six receptions, 144 yards and two scores.

Chris Davis Sealed the Game for the Second Straight Week

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    Congratulations, Chris Davis, but I don't think you can keep that.
    Congratulations, Chris Davis, but I don't think you can keep that.Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

    Auburn defensive back Chris Davis made the well-documented field goal return for a touchdown as time expired against Alabama last week.

    This weekend, he ended Mizzou's hopes of an SEC championship.

    With under five minutes remaining, Missouri faced a 4th-and-1 from its own 13-yard line.

    James Franklin attempted a slant to Dorial Green-Beckham, but Davis was all over it. He knocked the ball away, forcing a turnover on downs.

    Tre Mason proceeded to score a touchdown on the next play, and Auburn then led by the final 59-42 margin.

Missouri Still Had a Successful Regular Season

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    James Franklin walked off the Georgia Dome turf after a loss, but a talented Missouri can certainly return to Atlanta next season.
    James Franklin walked off the Georgia Dome turf after a loss, but a talented Missouri can certainly return to Atlanta next season.Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

    Yes, it was a disappointing finish to the regular season, but Missouri can hang its collective hat on an 11-2 season.

    The Tigers were expected by many to be perennial bottom feeders in the SEC, but Mizzou earned a division title during its second year in the conference.

    Gary Pinkel's team will head to a January bowl game with a chance to match a school-record 12 wins.

    The future is bright in Columbia, no matter how 2013 came to a close.

Auburn Is Headed to a BCS Game

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    Auburn hoisted the SEC Championship trophy for the second time in four seasons.
    Auburn hoisted the SEC Championship trophy for the second time in four seasons.Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

    Auburn overcame its two turnovers and lack of defense to earn the program's third SEC Championship Game win, bringing its overall total to eight titles.

    The Tigers bowled over Mizzou, refusing to have a letdown on the physical aspect of the game, and deservedly celebrated a fantastic regular season.

    One season removed from a winless conference campaign, Auburn is one loss by either Florida State or Ohio State away from an opportunity at a national championship.

    No matter what happens, though, Auburn proved any doubters wrong by beating No. 1 Alabama and No. 5 Missouri in successive weeks and clinching a BCS berth.