OK, let’s take some time to collectively catch our breath, because the first half of the SEC Championship Game had quite the back-and-forth, up-and-down pace to it with a little bit of everything dashed in. Between three turnovers, including a defensive touchdown, an onside kick and big plays by both teams, there is not much we have not seen at this point. Auburn holds a 28-27 edge on Missouri at the half in Atlanta.
The first quarter had a good handful of highlights. Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham provided a spectacular touchdown catch to give Missouri a 10-7 lead, leaping and reaching for a ball only he would be able to get his hands on and holding on to the football as he came crashing to the ground with a defender hanging on. Or so it seemed. Video replay showed the touchdown may have actually been incomplete, but the play was not even an extended review before Missouri kicked the extra point. Auburn may have gotten the raw end of the play, but they shrugged it aside and ran right down field on the ensuing possession, 75 yards on five plays ending with a Nick Marshall touchdown. Marshall did make a couple of mistakes in the first half, including a fumble that was scooped up by Missouri’s E.J. Gaines and returned for a touchdown. That gave Missouri a 17-14 lead, but the Auburn Tigers would battle back and take control of the game on the ground. Auburn has already rushed for 283 yards, the most yards allowed on the ground this season by Missouri, 283 yards.
The key player in that rushing production has been Auburn running back Tre Mason. Mason is closing in on the SEC Championship Game rushing record, and he should pick it up early in the second half. After rushing for 194 yards against Missouri’s defense, Mason needs just seven more yards to tie the game’s rushing record, previously set by LSU’s Justin Vincent, who rushed for 201 yards 2003. Mason added two touchdowns from inside the ten-yard line.
Before the end of the half, Missouri cut in to Auburn’s 28-20 lead when James Franklin connected with Green-Backham, who left his defender in the dust and had nobody stopping him on the way to the end zone. This is going to be a wild finish, but will either team prove worthy of a trip to Pasadena?
One of the stories about this game involves whether or not a one-loss SEC champion should be in the BCS Championship Game. As it stands right now, as long as Florida State and Ohio State win their conference championship games later tonight, the SEC will likely be shut out of the title game, bringing an end to the BCS championship streak. Neither team seems to be showing enough to warrant jumping the Seminoles or Buckeyes if the two undefeated teams win their conference championships today.