AUBURN, Ala. — It takes a lot to impress Tre Mason.
Take his game Saturday, for example. The junior running back spearheaded Auburn’s 35-17 victory over Arkansas with his career-best four touchdowns. He set another career-high by carrying the ball 32 times, which accounted for 58.2 percent of the Tigers’ 55 offensive plays. And there have only been two other occasions that he bettered the 168 rushing yards he finished with against the Razorbacks.
But when asked whether he felt it was his keynote performance as a Tiger, he hedged.
“It feels excellent. I’m just happy to get another win and I’m trying to get better and better every week,” he said. “My O-line blocked great tonight. Also (fullback) Jay Prosch and the receivers and that allowed me to be successful.”
One thing Mason had no problem talking about was, well, talking. He acknowledged that emotions were running high between the two teams Saturday.
“Those guys were talking a lot,” he said. “I just tried to tell them, ‘Look at the scoreboard.’ Once you get the lead, you try to keep the lead.”
Thanks to Mason, that wasn’t an issue, as the Tigers kept feeding him the ball. Not that he had a problem with it. In fact, Mason was humbled that the coaching staff — and specifically head coach Gus Malzahn — had so much faith in his abilities.
“I had to make something happen, and I have a little slogan — it’s called ‘G.U.M.P.,’” he said. "A lot of guys from Florida know what it means and it’s called ‘great under major pressure.’ When the game is on the line, you’ve got to be the one to make that play.”
And it’s clear Malzahn has unwavering confidence in the Palm Beach, Fla., native. The coach has been pleased with not only Mason's progression this season, but also the reliability that established himself as the team’s feature back.
“He’s very tough and durable and getting a lot of hard yards. And he protects the football," Malzahn said. "I think that was the big thing. We talked about protecting the football — I know we put the one on the ground that Nick (Marshall) got back — but I thought that was a big point in the game.”
Another major factor in the victory was Auburn’s success in the red zone. In four trips inside the Razorbacks’ 20-yard line, the Tigers came away with four touchdowns.
Mason said that’s no coincidence. After all, it’s simply one component of the unit’s plan to be the “best offense in America."
“Every time we touch the ball, we try to score,” he said. “I know when we get down to the end zone, we’re going to play hard-nosed football and punch it in. We’ve been pretty consistent at that and we’re going to continue to do that.”
It shouldn’t be that difficult, since Mason said having that “hard-nosed” mind-set is what the offense prides itself upon. Mason, for obvious reasons, was delighted Auburn ran the ball 46 times against just nine passes. He also took comfort in the fact opponents know how much the Tigers lean on the running game.
Of course, that hasn’t made much difference, as the Tigers lap the rest of the SEC when it comes to rushing yards per contest, averaging 306.2 each time out, miles ahead of second-place Missouri at 237.2 per game.
Mason wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s the key to our offense,” he said. “We’re going to pound it and you’ve got to try to stop it. If you don’t, you’ve got to like it.”