The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

November 5, 2013

Running game fueling No. 7 Auburn's rise

(Continued)

ATHENS —

The runs have typically been more divvied up among Mason, between-the-tackles rusher Cameron Artis-Payne and speedster Corey Grant, along with Marshall. Mason, though, is now the SEC's No. 3 rusher with 921 yards and a league-best 13 touchdowns.

"He wanted the ball the other night," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "You could tell he was really explosive, he was breaking tackles. He's a veteran guy and was wanting the football and we just kept giving it to him.

"Moving forward, we'll spread the ball around. We've got two other very talented running backs, but he was hot, and that's what we go with."

That backfield depth has enabled the Tigers to log easily the most rushes of any SEC team and attempt the fewest passes. Marshall and receiver Sammie Coates have combined for big plays, including an 88-yard touchdown against Arkansas, but the running game has been far more consistent, especially lately.

Auburn has averaged 17 passes and 55 runs the past three games. All that rushing production has made Mason want to do something nice for an offensive line led by Dismukes and left tackle Greg Robinson.

"I told those guys I've got to bake them a cake, do something nice for them, because those guys don't get as much love as they're supposed to," said Mason, who topped 1,000 yards on his final carry of last season.

Can he bake? "I can follow the directions," Mason said.

On the field, if not in the kitchen, he has plenty of help. Marshall has run for 520 yards, Artis-Payne 515 and Grant 456. All of them are averaging at least 5.7 yards per carry with four or more touchdowns.

"They have a mentality to run the football," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. "The thing about Auburn is they can beat you with quick screens, they can beat you with deep balls, and they can beat you with quarterback runs. If they decide to line up and run power offense at you, they can beat you.

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