Tre Mason, No. 3 Auburn beat No. 5 Missouri in SEC title game

Tre Mason

ATLANTA -- Tre Mason struck a pose -- a Heisman Trophy pose.

There's something the Auburn Tigers running back wants even more than an individual award.

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 looked more like a video game.

Auburn (12-1) is likely headed to the VIZIO BCS National Championship after No. 2 Ohio State lost to Michigan State 34-24 in the Big Ten championship game. The Tigers are likely headed to Pasadena to face top-ranked Florida State, which routed Duke 45-7 in the Atlantic Coast Championship game.

"We won the SEC championship," 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."

The Auburn players headed off to watch the games that would decide their fate, the Atlantic Coast Conference championship in Charlotte, N.C., and the Big Ten title contest in Indianapolis. If Auburn misses out on the big game, it will head to the Sugar Bowl as the SEC champion.

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.

"We're playing our best football right now," said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, making his pitch for a trip to Pasadena. "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."

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