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Auburn runs past Missouri in SEC title game

The Auburn Tigers celebrate Saturday after winning the SEC championship.

The Auburn Tigers celebrate Saturday after winning the SEC championship.

ATLANTA -- Auburn didn't need a late miracle this time. A record performance from running back Tre Mason was enough to cap a stunning worst-to-first run to the Southeastern Conference title in Gus Malzahn's first year as coach.

Winless in conference play a year ago, third-ranked Auburn (12-1) defeated fifth-ranked Missouri 59-42 behind Mason's 304 yards rushing and four touchdowns before 75,632 at the Georgia Dome on Saturday.

"The offensive line opened up some of the biggest holes I've ever run through," said Mason, who carried the ball 46 times and is making a late bid for Heisman Trophy consideration.

"We've gone from being one of the worst teams in college football to one of the best and we couldn't have done it without Coach Malzahn."

Malzahn said, "We've come a long way and we're playing our best football right now. We can run the ball on anyone."

Auburn finished with 677 total yards, including 545 on the ground, in the highest scoring SEC Championship Game. Auburn bettered the record of 56 points it scored against South Carolina in winning the 2010 title en route to the national championship. The combined score surpassed Florida's 45-30 victory over Alabama in 1996.

"It's a great scheme and they've got a lot of talent," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "I give them all the credit in the world."

Missouri's quarterback James Franklin completed 21-of-37 passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns, two to wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, but Missouri (11-2) couldn't stop Auburn's spread attack and failed in its attempt to claim the SEC title in its second year in the conference.

"They are absolutely crushed," Pinkel said of his team. "If we get in this situation again, hopefully we'll handle it better."

In the game's seventh lead change, kicker Corey Grant put Auburn ahead for good on a 2-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and running back Cameron Artis-Payne scored from 15 yards to make it 45-34 late in the quarter.

Running back Henry Josey broke off a 62-yard run for Missouri to set up Franklin's 10-yard score, and the two-point conversion run by the quarterback cut Auburn's lead to three points going into the fourth quarter.

Auburn, however, did not waiver.

Mason, the obvious choice as MVP, scored from 1 yard on fourth down with 11 minutes remaining to cap a 79-yard drive and reached the end zone again from 13 yards with four minutes remaining on the first play after Franklin's fourth-down pass to Green-Beckham was knocked down by defensive back Chris Davis, the last-second hero in Auburn's upset of Alabama.

"We were trying to win a game," Pinkel said of the gamble.

Auburn led 28-27 after a wild first half; the combined 55 points were 13 more than the previous record. The teams amassed 680 yards, with Auburn getting 282 of its 376 on the ground, as Missouri could not contain Mason.

Missouri's Kony Ealy stripped quarterback Nick Marshall of the ball on Auburn's opening possession and Matt Hoch recovered, setting up a 42-yard field by kicker Andrew Baggett.

However, Auburn bounced back with two quick 75-yard drives to one for Missouri and led 14-10 after a first quarter that set the tone for what was to come.

Marshall, who finished with 101 yards rushing and 132 passing, threw a 38-yard touchdown to wide receiver Sammie Coates and ran 9 yards to score himself. Missouri's first-quarter touchdown came on a 28-yard pass from Franklin to Green-Beckham.

Ealy forced Marshall to fumble again early in the second quarter and E.J. Gaines ran 11 yards for the Missouri touchdown. Auburn, however, sandwiched two more fast-strike, 75-yard drives around a 36-yard field goal by Baggett.

Mason had touchdown runs of 7 and 3 yards, finishing the half with 195 yards, 6 from the previous SEC Championship Game record set by Louisiana State's Justin Vincent in 2003. He covered the 75 yards on the final drive himself in four plays, breaking off a 52-yard run to get it started.

Missouri trailed by only a point at halftime when Green-Beckham hauled in a long pass from Franklin for a 55-yard score with 18 seconds left. It took Missouri six plays and 52 seconds to cover 92 yards.

Auburn's Cody Parkey, who missed from 54 yards in the second quarter, set the SEC Championship Game record with a 52-yard field goal early in the third quarter, but Missouri went back ahead briefly on a 10-yard scoring pass from Franklin to running back Marcus Murphy.

It was Auburn's day, though.

"I'm living a dream right now," Malzahn said.