The Auburn Tigers completed one of the most improbable one season turnarounds in college football history on Saturday, winning the SEC Championship 59-42 in a wild shootout vs. Missouri. The Tigers are now 12-1 and conference champs, one season after finishing 3-9 and winless in SEC play. The BCS title game may be awaiting them, but they don't need that to validate how amazing 2013 has been.
The two teams didn't waste any time getting started scoring points. Nick Marshall and James Franklin each threw touchdown passes in the first quarter, and Marshall added a rushing touchdown to make it 14-10 after 15 minutes. Missouri took the lead early in the second after E.J. Gaines recovered a Marshall fumble and returned it for a score, but Auburn answered quickly with a Tre Mason touchdown run. Mason would add another score before halftime, and Franklin found Dorial Green-Beckham for a 55-yard touchdown reception, his second touchdown catch of the game, to make it 28-27 at the break.
Both sets of Tigers accumulated just under 700 yards of total offense in the first half, and the 55 combined points was the most in the history of the SEC title game. They weren't finished, either.
Auburn opened the second half scoring with a 52-yard field goal from Cody Parkey, but Missouri reclaimed the lead on a touchdown pass from Franklin to Marcus Murphy, making it 34-31. Auburn's rushing attack, which had been operating with ruthless efficiency all game, put the Tigers in control after that with a pair of touchdown rushes for Corey Grant and Cameron Artis-Payne, and it felt like Auburn finally had things under control with the score at 45-34. Missouri wasn't done, though, as James Franklin brought his team back within three points with a rushing touchdown of his own. That touchdown, which made it 45-42 with over 15 minutes remaining, set a new SEC title game points record.
After another Tre Mason touchdown, Auburn reclaimed a two-score lead with 11 minutes remaining. Thankfully for them, their defense finally gave them some relief and made stops. Missouri, desperate to score, went for it on fourth-and-1 at their own 10-yard line with just over four minutes remaining, and Franklin's pass to Green-Beckham went incomplete. Mason scored on the next play to seal the win and the SEC Championship.
All told, the teams combined for 1210 yards of total offense and 52 first downs. Auburn rushed for an astounding 544 yards on the ground, making Missouri's very respectable 231 yard total look paltry in comparison. Auburn is still alive for the BCS title game, but probably needs either Ohio State or Florida State to lose in order to get there. Even if that doesn't happen, a berth in the Sugar Bowl is a fine consolation prize.
Box Score Hero:
Tre Mason was an absolute monster for Auburn, leading the line for the Tigers' devastating rushing attack. Mason rushed for 303 yards on 45 attempts and registered four touchdowns. Just a staggering effort on the nation's biggest stage.
Auburn and Missouri came into this game ranked third and fifth in the BCS standings, respectively. The winner obviously earns the SEC's automatic BCS bid, and the loser will surely be left out of the BCS entirely due to Alabama getting an at-large berth. The winner would need some help, but a BCS title game berth is not out of the question.
But Did They Cover?
Missouri was a 2.5-point favorite at kickoff, so they did not cover the spread.
For More On This Game:
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For more on the (Missouri) Tigers, head over to Rock M Nation.
Next Week's Schedule:
End of the regular season for both teams.