AUBURN, Ala. -- In last Saturday’s SEC championship game, the Auburn coaches kept giving the ball to running back Tre Mason, knowing their next game wouldn’t come for at least another three weeks. Mason delivered with 304 yards and four touchdowns against Missouri, but it didn’t come without some consequence to his body.
“Of course, you know I'm feeling a little sore after however many carries I had, 46 or something like that,” Mason said. “But that’s just how you feel after a game. I wasn’t going to stop until the clock hit zero, and we won. I wasn’t even tired. Even after the game, I was celebrating and I was happy. I probably could have gone another game.”
Fortunately, Auburn doesn’t have to play another game until January. After back-to-back wins over two of the most physical teams in the SEC, the Tigers will receive a much-needed break to rest up, recuperate and prepare for No. 1 Florida State in the VIZIO BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 6.
“It's tough to have to wait a month, but we need that preparation and like what Tre said, people need their bodies to heal,” cornerback Chris Davis said. “You need to step away from football for a minute.”
The Auburn players are off this week because of finals, but it’s back to the practice field next week as they start preparation for the Seminoles.
“We need to know what they’re doing before they do it, and I think that will give us a good head start on them,” Davis said. “And we just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing. Like Coach [Gus] Malzahn said, you’re not going to change anything. We’re just going to prepare like we’ve been preparing until the game comes.”
Malzahn, Davis and the rest of the seniors have been in this situation before. They won the 2010 BCS title game after winning the SEC championship. That season, the Tigers had 36 days between the two games. This year, they only have 29 days, but Malzahn plans to implement a similar regiment in the weeks leading up to the final game.
“I’d like to think that [experience] would definitely help,” Malzahn said. “I thought we had a solid plan in 2010.
“Any time you have a month before you play, you’ve got to be strategic. You have to rest your guys enough mentally and physically, but keep them as fresh as you can and get your work done. Then you try to keep some type of routine, especially the last two weeks before you play. I really felt good about our plan in 2010, and it will be fairly similar to that.”
As an offensive coordinator, Malzahn was 4-1 in bowl games that he coached. The lone loss came at Arkansas in 2006 when he wasn’t calling plays. However, this will be his first postseason experience as a head coach. Last season, he left Arkansas State before the Red Wolves played their bowl game.
He’s already admitted that he’s slept better since Saturday’s SEC championship game.
“Probably better than I had the few weeks before just because we're not playing another opponent [right away],” Malzahn said. “I would say there was a little more relaxation than there had been.”
This week, Malzahn and a select group of players will travel to Orlando for Thursday’s Home Depot College Football Awards show. From there, he’s expected to accompany Mason to New York City for the Heisman Trophy presentation on Saturday night.
Then it’s back to work for Malzahn and the Tigers.