(photo:David Carson, Post Dispatch)
There is no secret to No. 2 Auburn’s success this year, it has been a smooth running and powerful ground offensive. The Tigers have chewed up yardage faster than Gen. Stormin Norman’s troops did in the first Gulf War.
Field Marshall Gus Malzahn‘s squad leads the nation in rushing with 335.7 yards per game. And what has been the most impressive thing about it … they’ve done it in the SEC West, the toughest division in college football.
Each game this year the pundits have said Auburn could not win with a heavy emphasis on the running game. How’d that work out? Early in the season they ran for 379 yards against No. 7 Texas A&M, then at the end of the year they put close to 300 on Alabama (the nation’s No.4 defense). Along the way, Tre Mason became the first back to gain over 100 yards rushing against seven SEC opponents.
When the Tigers faced the SEC’s No.2 rushing defense (Missouri) in the league championship, they completely blew away Alabama’s record of 350 yards the Tide set against Georgia in last year’s game.
Auburn blistered Mizzou, gashing the Black and Gold Tigers for big gains almost at will; finishing the night at 677 total yards with 545 coming on the ground.
The dilemma for opposing defenses in trying to stop Auburn has been first figuring out who has the ball. Will Quarterback Nick Mrshall keep it, throw it, or hand off to Tre Mason to run up the middle? Or maybe Cory Grant or Ricardo Louis will get it on a speed sweep? By the time the puzzle has been figured out the Tigers may have gotten 7 or more yards.
When Auburn is clicking the defenses gets confused, worn down, and feel besieged. And so do the opposing coaches. Mizzou’s Gary Pinkel was asked after the championship game if there is any way to stop Auburn’s offense. A frustrated and beleaguered Pinkel said , “You know what, I’m the wrong person to ask because I’d have stopped it if I could have.”
So what has been the key to Auburn’s successful attack? First it’s been a quarterback that runs the option read almost to perfection. Second, you have to give credit to the way that Tre Mason not only runs the ball but works seamlessly with Marsahll to sell the fakes. Then there is the real strength of the offense … the O-Line. In football everything begins up front.
And with a consistent offensive line that gives the runners lanes to run free, there’s not much to stop Marshall and company from having a day like they did against Mizzou with Marshall getting 101 yards and Mason 304.
“They work their tails off every day,” Mason said. “Those guys open up some of the biggest holes that I’ve ever seen.” Tight End C.J. Uzomah agreed, “Numbers don’t lie. Our O-Line … (opens) some holes that a bus could fit through.”
Strength and Conditioning Coach Ryan Russell deserves a lot of credit for improving the unit’s strength and stamina. In addition, O-Line Coach J.B. Grimes has done a fantastic job of coaching and developing the big uglies. Depth has also played an important role. If a second string man has to come in, the Tigers don’t miss a beat.
It was particularly satisfying to see some of them get recognition in the past few days. Left Tackle Greg Robinson was named first Team All SEC by the AP and ESPN.com and Third Team All-American by both the Sporting News and the Associated Press. While Guard Alex Kozan was named Freshman All-American by the Sporting News. And Center Reese Dismukes was named All-SEC and All-American by Athlon Sports, the Sporting News, and the AP.
As an Auburn fan, you have to feel pretty good about the strength of Auburn’s offense. Yet there’s no denying the Tigers will have their work cut out for them when they take on the Florida State Seminoles January 6th in the BCS National Championship; but so will FSU when they try to figure out how to stop the nation’s No.1 rushing team.
War Eagle … Beat the Noles!
Tags: Alex kozan, All-SEC, Auburn All-American, Auburn blogs, Auburn Football, Auburn No.1 rushing team, Auburn O-Line, Greg Robinson, Gus Malzahn, Reese Dismukes, sec blogs, Track emTigers, Tre Mason