At one point Saturday, Auburn running back Tre Mason struck the Heisman pose, and later he got a hug from Tigers legend Bo Jackson.
It was that kind of day for Mason, who set records while lifting the Tigers to a 59-42 victory over Missouri in the SEC Championship game at the Georgia Dome.
Afterward, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn made the case for Mason as a Heisman Trophy contender.
“You are looking at one of the best running backs in college football, and he proved it again today,” he said. “Usually the best players on the best teams have a chance at it, and you are looking at that guy right here.”
Mason set championship-game records with 304 rushing yards and 46 carries and also scored four touchdowns. Mason broke the championship-game rushing record set by LSU’s Justin Vincent, who ran for 201 yards in a 34-13 victory over Georgia in 2003.
Mason nearly did it in the first half with 194 yards, and surpassed Vincent’s mark on the second play after halftime. Those numbers are why Mason struck the Heisman pose to remind voters that he deserves consideration.
“It’s just a personal goal of mine,” Mason said. “It was always a dream growing up wanting to win the Heisman. I’m sure every kid what plays football, that’s one of their dreams. It’s hard to describe the feelings I have now.”
Mason’s performance prompted some admiring words from Jackson, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1985.
“He was just telling me how much he loved me and how hard I ran and he’s just proud of me,” Mason said.
Mason broke off big runs all day, and when Auburn needed a tough yard for some breathing room, Mason delivered.
Missouri, trailing 45-42 early in the fourth quarter, stopped Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall 1 yard short of the end zone. With neither team showing an ability to slow the other, Auburn coach Malzahn decided to go for the touchdown.
Marshall handed off to Mason, whose momentum was halted in a pile short of the goal line. But Mason surged forward, officials confirmed the touchdown on video review, and Auburn had control with a 52-42 lead.
Later in the quarter, after Auburn stopped Missouri on fourth down, Mason added a 13-yard touchdown run, showing that he wasn’t tired from all of those carries.
“I didn’t think about fatigue at that point and time, just not quitting until the clock said zero,” Mason said.
When Missouri cut Auburn’s lead to 21-20 in the second quarter, Auburn responded with a four-play, 79-yard drive that was all Mason. He had gains of 52, 7, and 17 yards before finishing with a 3-yard touchdown that gave the Tigers a 28-20 lead.
Missouri boasts one of the better rushing defenses in the country, but the Tigers couldn’t contain Mason.
“We were expecting him to be a great player, but you let a guy go through a gap like that full speed, you’ve got problems on the other end,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said.
“You’re asking your safeties and other people to make plays with him in space, and that’s difficult. He made a lot of big plays, and obviously I’m disappointed in that.”