Key play: Missouri trailed 7-3 before a 75-yard march capped by senior quarterback James Franklin’s 28-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham on a deep post. Replays showed that the ball squirted free on the turf and shouldn’t have been a catch, but the touchdown stood. Green-Beckham went to the locker room to have his left shoulder evaluated after the play.
Key stat: Auburn had 18 carries for 92 yards in the first quarter. The Tigers averaged 5.1 yards per carry, led by junior Tre Mason, who racked up 55 yards in 10 carries in the quarter.
Key play: Down 28-20 and knowing Auburn would get the ball to start the second half, Missouri took over at its own 8-yard line with 1:10 remaining before halftime. Six plays later, Franklin threw a 55-yard rainbow for an indisputable touchdown to Green-Beckham that drew Missouri within 28-27 at halftime.
Key stat: Mason had rushed for more yards at halftime than any team Missouri faced during the regular season. Mason had 23 carries for 195 yards, with touchdowns of 7 and 3 yards. The most yards Missouri allowed in any previous game was 184 against Texas A&M.
Key play: Auburn led 45-34 with 31 seconds remaining in the third quarter when Missouri took over at its own 25 after a touchback. Junior tailback Henry Josey burst free for 65 yards on the first play of the drive, setting up Franklin’s touchdown and two-point conversion to pull within 45-42 entering the fourth quarter.
Key stat: Green-Beckham, who ended the game with 144 yards in six catches, surpassed his old high for receiving yards when he caught a short screen, cut back across the field and turned up along the Missouri sideline for a 37-yard gain on third and 8. That led to a 10-yard TD pass from Franklin to junior Marcus Murphy and a brief 34-31 lead.
Key play: Facing fourth and 1 at the MU 13 with Missouri trailing 52-42, quarterback James Franklin — under pressure from linebacker Cassanova McKinzy — fired a slant to Green-Beckham, who was blanketed by Chris Davis. It was incomplete, and running back Tre Mason scored the back-breaking touchdown one play later.
Key stat: En route to SEC championship game MVP honors, Mason scored his third and fourth rushing touchdowns of the game in the fourth quarter. Auburn finished with seven rushing touchdowns against a Missouri defense that had permitted only 11 in the first 12 games.
Player of the game: Auburn junior running back Tre Mason. Mason finished with a school-record 46 carriesfor 304 yards, an SEC championship game record. He also scored four times — on runs of 7, 3, 1 and 12 yards — in carrying Auburn from the outhouse (zero wins in SEC play last season) to the penthouse (the eighth SEC title in program history).
Reason to hope: Missouri reached the SEC championship game in only its second season in the nation’s toughest football conference. The Tigers still have a chance to match the 2007 team for the most wins (12) in program history, and coach Gary Pinkel will be at the helm for the forseeable future.
Reason to mope: It’s hard to make it to the SEC championship game. It took South Carolina 19 years in the conference to make it to a title game. There’s no telling when Missouri will be back in this position, so the loss is disappointing. Still, it shouldn’t diminish all that Missouri accomplished during the regular season.
Looking ahead: Missouri isn’t likely to land in the BCS as a result of losing the SEC championship game, which means the Capital One, Outback or Cotton bowls are possible landing spots. It will be the final game for Missouri’s seniors — including Franklin, wide receivers L’Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas, linebacker Andrew Wilson and cornerback E.J. Gaines.
Tod Palmer, email@example.com
Mizzou report card
|A-||Offense||Missouri rushed for 231 yards and senior quarterback James Franklin threw for 303 yards. The Tigers made a slew of big plays and had a knack for answering big scores by Auburn with clutch drives of their own. At the end of the day, though, Missouri still came up short.|
|D-||Defense||Cornerback E.J. Gaines’ fumble recovery for a touchdown and defensive end Kony Ealy’s two forced fumbles are all that prevent a failing grade. Missouri gave up 545 yards rushing after not allowing more than 184 in any of the previous 12 games this season.|
|B-||Special teams||Kicker Andrew Baggett crushed his two field goals, from 42 and 36 yards away, and put six of eight kickoffs in the end zone for touchbacks. Punter Christian Brinser averaged 45 yards per punt after a nervy first kick, but Auburn also recovered a surprise onside kick and Chris Davis had a couple of nice punt returns.|
|D+||Coaching||Defense was the key to the game for Missouri, which had no answers for Auburn’s rushing attack. Worse yet, there were almost no halftime adjustments to try and address the gaping holes Auburn routinely opened in Missouri’s defense. The offense was solid, but also failed to produce any points in the fourth quarter.|