published Sunday, December 1st, 2013

Auburn ground game punishes Alabama

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn celebrates with his wife Kristi after their 34-28 win over No. 1 Alabama in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala.
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn celebrates with his wife Kristi after their 34-28 win over No. 1 Alabama in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

AUBURN, Ala. — As it turns out, Auburn could run on everybody this season.

Gus Malzahn's up-tempo spread offense made Alabama its latest victim, rushing 52 times for 296 yards in Saturday's 34-28 upset of the top-ranked Crimson Tide. Alabama entered the game allowing just 91.3 rushing yards a game, yielding a season-high of 165 against Arkansas.

"They are a great run defense, but we felt like for us to win that we had to run it," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "Our mindset was to run the football, and I didn't want to change anything. I wanted to do what got us here, and if they were good enough to stop it, then so be it."

The only team to hold Auburn under 200 rushing yards this season has been Mississippi State, which held the Tigers to 120 yards. Quarterback Nick Marshall had his lone 300-yard passing game against the Bulldogs, however, and rallied the Tigers to a 24-20 win in September.

Against Alabama, junior tailback Tre Mason rushed 29 times for 164 yards and Marshall added 17 carries for 99 yards. Outside speed threat Corey Grant, who began his career at Alabama, had four carries for 28 yards.

"Their running game has had a lot of success against everybody all year long," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "It's a very difficult offense to defend, and it takes a lot of discipline. There were times when we didn't play the plays properly, especially on their drive in the second quarter. They ran three plays in a row, and it was a counter and we didn't close like we were supposed to, and they hit us with a couple of big runs."

Said Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley: "When they ran the ball up the middle, I thought we did a good job of handling it. When they started cutting off our edges, that's when they made big plays on us."

Mason had a 40-yard gain in the second quarter that ignited the Tigers from a 21-7 deficit, but Marshall had Auburn's longest run with a 45-yard touchdown in the first quarter that opened the scoring.

"Marshall made some plays because we messed up on our technique, but he also made some plays on his own," Mosley said. "He's been doing that all year."

Tide tidbits

Alabama still holds a 42-35-1 lead in the Iron Bowl rivalry, though Auburn has an 18-14 advantage since Bear Bryant's final season in 1982. ... The 99-yard pass from AJ McCarron to Amari Cooper early in the fourth quarter was the longest play in school history, topping Chris Anderson's 96-yard run against Temple in 1991. ... Saban is 73-4 at Alabama when leading at halftime, but two of those setbacks have occurred against Auburn. ... Senior kicker Cade Foster, who missed three field-goal attempts, entered 11-of-12 on the season. ... Jalston Fowler has seven receptions this season, including five for touchdowns.

Tiger tales

Auburn collected its fourth win over a No. 1 team and its first since a 23-20 win over Florida in 2001. ... The Tigers became the first team to score two rushing touchdowns against Alabama this season. ... Mason's 18 rushing touchdowns this season rank second in school history behind Cam Newton's 20 in 2010.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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