NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — After tallying 283 carries this season — and a school and SEC championship game record 46 rushes in his last outing — Tre Mason was in need of a break.
And he got exactly that thanks to the long layoff between the SEC title game and the BCS championship on Monday.
“I needed a little bit of time off just to rest my body and get back — just restore my body — because I was in a lot of pain after that game,” Mason said Thursday in his first media appearance since the Tigers arrived in California. “Just the adrenaline took me through that game, but it was a fun experience. But I feel like we needed a little time off to game plan and get everybody back healthy.”
In the past five games, Mason has totaled a whopping 154 rushing attempts — an average of 30.8 per game. During that span, the junior combined to run for 868 yards and 13 touchdowns.
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Perhaps even more impressively, he did so while continuing to battle a nagging ankle injury suffered earlier this season.
Consider his teammates impressed.
“Honestly, I feel like I'm in good shape, but I don't see how he runs the ball back to back to back as hard as he does consistently and still he just keeps going,” said Jay Prosch, a senior fullback who is the lead blocker on many of Mason’s carries. “The thing is, sometimes I look back and he looks like he's dying, but when we snap the ball you would think that he's fresh. Honestly, I don't understand that.”
There’s no such confusion on Florida State’s side.
The Seminoles are well-aware that to stymie Auburn’s vaunted running game — which ranks first in the FBS at 335.7 yards per game — they will need to key on Mason.
They haven’t seen a running back of his caliber this season, after all.
“Duke Johnson (at Miami) is a really good player. Kelvin Taylor at Florida is a good player,” said Seminole defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, racking his brain to name the best tailbacks he’s seen this year. “(Taylor is) young, but he's a good player. We've played some good backs. (But) I don't know if any of them are quite Tre Mason.”
With that in mind, Florida State’s defenders know they need to avoid getting into one-on-one encounters with Mason.
“I think he's stronger than what people think,” Florida State linebacker Christian Jones said. “He does a good job of keeping his balance, and we (have got) to wrap up. If we wrap up, we'll be fine. He's a good player. He wasn't up for the Heisman for no reason.”