ATLANTA — While its rushing attack blew through the Southeastern Conference this season with staggering success, Auburn displayed special teams that were just as exemplary.
In Saturday's 59-42 win over Missouri for the SEC championship, Auburn kicker Cody Parkey drilled a 52-yard field goal and had touchbacks on eight of his nine kickoffs. Yet he may have been outdone by fellow senior Steven Clark, whose three punts were downed at Missouri's 8-, 7- and 4-yard lines.
"We feel like we're the best special-teams tandem in the nation," Clark said. "We just have so much fun doing what we do, and it's just been so much fun playing for this team. We couldn't think of a better way to go out.
"Tonight was just one of those deals where you're feeling it, and I'm just so thankful I could help out my team."
In last week's 34-28 upset of Alabama, Clark had two punts downed at the 1.
Parkey had all nine of his kickoffs go for touchbacks in the 43-38 win over Georgia, and the lone return by Missouri went for just 14 yards. His 52-yard field goal, which put Auburn up 31-27 with 8:17 left in the third quarter, was the longest of his career and the longest in SEC title-game history.
"We're both seniors, and we know we've got to rise to the occasion, especially in these big games," Parkey said. "We've worked really hard to get where we're at right now, and we practice these things all year for these 13 or 14 weeks."
And how did Parkey develop such a knack for touchbacks? By playing against Tre Mason in high school.
"I had to make sure I kicked all touchbacks so he didn't touch the ball," Parkey said of the title-game MVP.
Coming full circle
Auburn's seniors began their career with an SEC title in 2010, and they added another one Saturday.
In between, they went 11-14 and experienced a coaching change.
"It's crazy," Auburn defensive end Dee Ford said as he soaked in the Georgia Dome celebration. "I started here, and I finished here. It's a great feeling."
The future is now
Missouri sophomore receiver Dorial Green-Beckham was the nation's No. 1 prospect in the 2012 signing class.
Green-Beckham was also the No. 1 player in Saturday's SEC championship game not named Tre Mason. The 6-foot-6, 225-pound sophomore from Springfield, Mo., had 144 yards and two touchdowns on six receptions.
"He does a lot of things, and he's just gotten better and better," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "He's a playmaker, and we tried to get the ball to him a few other times. Obviously he played very, very well.
"He's got a lot of big-play potential, as we all know."
Odds and ends
Auburn is 305-4 all-time when scoring 30 or more points, which includes a streak of 88 straight wins. ... Mason's previous high was 181 rushing yards in last season's win over Alabama A&M. ... Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall has 1,023 rushing yards this season, joining Auburn's Jimmy Sidle (1963) and Cam Newton (2010) and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel (2012) as the only SEC quarterbacks to surpass 1,000. ... Gus Malzahn is the only first-year coach to win an SEC title game. ... The SEC West has won five straight league titles to even the all-time ledger at 11-11.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.
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 ...