Asked what was going through his mind, he drew a blank. The Auburn senior said the magnitude of his team's turnaround was too much to take in at once.
Last year, No. 3 Auburn didn't win a single SEC game.
One season later, Auburn (12-1) sits at the top of the conference after a wild 59-42 victory over Missouri on Saturday night in the Georgia Dome. It also put forth its best case to make the BCS Championship Game. No. 1 Florida State appears a lock after beating Duke for the ACC title, but No. 2 Ohio State lost to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game, paving the way for Auburn.
"I haven't really processed it all yet," Prosch said when he was finally able to put his thoughts into words. "This full season has been perfect. I couldn't ask for anything more."
And little more could have been asked of Tre Mason
As teammate Jermaine Whitehead recalled, Mason stalked around the locker room at halftime, talking to every person he came across. To each of them, Mason delivered one simple message: just keep feeding him the ball. Despite carrying 23 times in the first 30 minutes of Saturday night’s SEC Championship Game against Missouri, he wanted more.
Auburn was more than happy to oblige, giving Mason the ball another 23 times in the second half.
Because of his record-breaking performance of 304 rushing yards, Auburn captured its third SEC title in 10 years.
His 46 carries are the most in school history in a single game — and just one off Herschel Walker’s SEC record. His rushing yards and four touchdowns are SEC Championship Game records. He now has 21 rushing touchdowns, which surpassing Cam Newton’s 2010 tally for the most in a single season.
After all his work was done, though, the questions were obvious: did one carry stand above the rest? Did he ever stop to think about his hefty workload.
Not for a second, he said.
“We just wanted to keep fighting till the end,” Mason said. “Find a way to put a nail in the coffin, as we say. We've got to finish the game. We didn't get too ahead of ourselves. We played great when the clock was winding down, and our team found a win.”
His final touchdown, which came with 4:22 remaining, did just that. But ever the team player, Mason credited everyone but himself for the score.
“It was a team effort,” he said. “Jay Prosch blocking, our O-line, our receivers — everybody wanting to get in the end zone. We believed and found a way to stretch it out right there where we could kind of enjoy that last couple of minutes.”
As it turned out, Auburn (12-1) needed nearly every single point and yard Mason was good for.
Of course, Mason wasn’t the only player who found success running the ball against Missouri (11-2). Coming into the game with the second-best rushing defense in the SEC, No. 5 Missouri looked anything but that caliber Saturday night. Aside from Mason’s 304 yards, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall ran for 115 yards and a touchdown, while Corey Grant ran for 65 yards and a touchdown on just five carries.
In sum, Auburn ran for 545 yards, the second-most in school history.
While Auburn scored eight touchdowns — another SEC Championship Game record, bettering the seven it had in the 2010 contest — Missouri was no slouch itself. Missouri scored five touchdowns against Auburn’s defense, and held leads at four different points in the game.
Even after Mason’s third score extended the advantage to 52-42 with 11:09 to play, Gus Malzahn knew it would be crazy to think the game was anywhere close to being over.
“The way games have ended the last few weeks, we didn't want to take anything for granted,” Malzahn said. “We're up by ten, and we just keep playing, just keep fighting, keep playing. So really that didn't really go through my mind other than, ‘Hey, let's be ready if they score again. I mean, they're a great team. They're a top five team. They're one of the better teams we played all year.”