EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 8, 2013

Mason, Auburn states their case for title game


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — ATLANTA (AP) — Tre Mason struck a pose — a Heisman Trophy pose.

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

A shot at the 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 yesterday that looked more like a video game.

Auburn (12-1) kept alive its hopes of playing for the national championship, though the Tigers would likely need either top-ranked Florida State or No. 2 Ohio State to lose in their respective conference title games, which began about the time Auburn was wrapping up the shootout at the Georgia Dome.

“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 could 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.

Sooners prevail

STILLWATER, Okla. — Blake Bell threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Saunders with 19 seconds remaining to help No. 18 Oklahoma spoil rival Oklahoma State’s Big 12 championship and BCS bowl game hopes with a 33-24 win.

Bell, playing in place of an injured Trevor Knight, led the Sooners (10-2, 7-2 Big 12) on the game-winning 66-yard drive — going 5 of 8 for 57 yards on the drive.

Eric Striker ended the game by recovering a fumble for a touchdown for Oklahoma, which has now won at least 10 games in four straight seasons.

Sooners coach Bob Stoops is now 8-1 in his career against Cowboys coach Mike Gundy.

Desmond Roland led No. 6 Oklahoma State (10-2, 7-2) with 144 yards rushing and accounted for three touchdowns.

Stanford rolls in Pac-12

TEMPE, Ariz. — Tyler Gaffney ran for 133 yards and scored three touchdowns in a dominating first half, leading No. 7 Stanford back to the Rose Bowl with a 38-14 victory over No. 11 Arizona State in the Pac-12 title game last night.

Stanford (11-2) raced out to a big lead in its first game with Arizona State this season and had its way with the Sun Devils again early in the rematch, building a 28-7 lead early in the second quarter. Gaffney did most of the damage, scoring on a 69-yard run on the Cardinal’s second play and a pair of 1-yard runs.

Stanford consistently gouged Arizona State for big plays, racking up 517 yards to earn a shot at repeating as Rose Bowl champion.

Arizona State (10-3) stumbled early for the second straight game against the Cardinal and never really recovered to spoil its Rose Bowl hopes.