Dec. 7, 2013
Auburn's Tre Mason will lead the SEC's best running game against Missouri (Jim Brown/USA Today)
By Charles Goldberg
ATLANTA -- Rhett Lashlee was in agreement. Yes, Auburn is rolling along quite nicely with its running game. No, Auburn hasn't run many trick plays this season because of it.
But, he added with a smile, "we still have a couple."
Auburn's offensive coordinator and head coach Gus Malzahn hasn't be tricky down the stretch. They've let Tre Mason and Nick Marshall run the football, and they've pretty much haven't cared who knew it. Auburn ran for almost 300 yards against Alabama last Saturday, and will be looking for more when the Tigers meet Missouri in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game in the Georgia Dome at 3 p.m., Central.
Want to guess what the game plan is for the game? Well, Auburn is first in the SEC in rushing. Missouri is second. Missouri is first in the SEC in sacks, but that may not matter too much if Auburn continues to run.
Malzahn, fresh off signing a new six-year contract to remain with Auburn, was asked Friday if teams have to play "old man" football in the SEC.
"Are you talking about old school football?" Malzahn asked. "I would say this is a league, it's a physical league. Games are won up front in this league offensively and defensively. So I would agree."
Auburn tailback Tre Mason, in the midst of his second straight 1,000-yard season, is old school in his drive, and his ability to turn a 3-yard run into 6, and an 8-yard run into 15.
That's how he's gotten to an SEC-best 1,317 yards.
"He always falls forward, he has incredible balance," Lashlee said. "A couple of those fourth-and-1s this year, the balance he’s had – incredible. The long run he had, he had incredible balance to make that run. It just goes hand in hand.
"He can get through the smallest creases, he’s just patient enough and can explode when it’s there and it goes back to the line. They’ve done a great job of not giving up penetration, which gets him started. With a great running back like him, you get him started, good things are going to happen. That’s our challenge this week because of the way Missouri’s defensive line is, they’re very disruptive. We’re going to have to be as good as ever up front of staying on those down guys, giving him a chance."
Malzahn didn't care that Alabama was the top run-stopping team in the SEC. He'll likely try to run on Missouri, too, but he knows the Tigers will have to get past a respected defensive line.
"That's going to be one of the keys to the game," he said. "They have an attacking style defensive front. They do a lot of slanting and twisting, doing some things to create some problems up front. Their linebackers are very good run fitters. That will be a big key in the game, their defensive front versus our offensive line. "
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers,com. Follow him on Twitter; Follow @AUGoldMine