It wasn’t as if Auburn running back Tre Mason arrived on the scene in the last month. It only seems that way.
Before the Tigers’ final two games, Mason was an excellent back who had topped 100 yards six times this season and nine times in his three-year career.
But in the regular-season finale against Alabama, Mason rolled for 164 yards. A week later, he turned in a performance for the ages with 304 yards rushing and four touchdowns against Missouri in the SEC championship game.
Mason isn’t expecting to put up those kinds of numbers against Florida State in tonight’s BCS Championship Game. But after what his team accomplished this season — going from a winless SEC record to college football’s title game — he’s not ruling out any possibility.
“I kind of had a feeling at the beginning of the year this was going to be a special team,” Mason said. “We had the will.”
And there was a way, mainly through the running game.
Coach Gus Malzahn’s high-tempo offense has produced the nation’s second-leading rushing attack at 337 yards per game. It uses movement to distract defenders, and operates behind a stellar offensive line.
“We’ll have to bring pressures,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “We have to create different looks.”
That’s different than Missouri’s approach. The Tigers remained mostly in a three-man front, got very little penetration and paid for it by allowing 545 rushing yards and 59 points.
Mason, a junior who has rushed for 1,621 yards and 22 touchdowns in a Heisman-finalist year, sees a combination of speed and strength in the Florida State defense. But he also hears doubters, and that’s been fuel for the Tigers all season.
“It’s going to be a great challenge, we know that,” Mason said. “People are saying we won’t be able to run against them. But we weren’t supposed to run against Georgia, Alabama and Missouri. We’ll just do what we need to do.”