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November 24, 2012

Notebook: Mason, Blake reach milestones; Iron Bowl loss one for the history books

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – A couple of personal milestones were in reach entering Saturday for key Auburn offensive players, and Tre Mason and Emory Blake didn’t disappoint – even if it took until the very end of this wayward season.

The Tigers’ sophomore running back and senior wide receiver weren’t satisfied with being shut out for the second time in as many SEC games, but they could settle for landing themselves on some impressive individual lists.

Mason came in knowing to become Auburn’s 22nd 1,000-yard rusher and the fifth in the last four seasons, he had to get 80 yards against the nation’s No. 3 rush defense. Alabama had only permitted LSU’s Jeremy Hill and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel to surpass 80 yards on the ground.

Add Mason to the list, who on his 21st carry ate up 5 yards on the final play of the season to get to 82 yards Saturday, and 1,002 on the year.

“With all the guys up front, it’s a blessing to have a line in front of you like that,” Mason said. “(Fullback) Jay Prosch is also a blessing. I just tried my hardest to get that 1,000 yards.”

Blake, in his final college game, moved into the top five on Auburn’s all-time receiving yards list, becoming one of only two Tigers (Karsten Bailey 1995-98) to be in Auburn’s top five for receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns.

“I didn’t even know how close I was or anything like that – I’ve just been concentrating on the game,” said the understated Blake. “It’s a good accomplishment, though. I’m glad I set that milestone.”

The NFL prospect hauled in a gorgeous over-the-shoulder pass by Jonathan Wallace in the final minute of the third quarter, good for Blake’s third reception of the day and finishing him out at 2,022 career yards.

“I have a lot of great memories at Auburn,” Blake said. “Even though it’s a tough season, I wouldn’t change anything. I learned a lot, and I can’t believe my time here is over.”

Low points: Alabama led 42-0 after 30 minutes, its largest halftime lead ever on Auburn. Never before in the Iron Bowl’s 77-game history had one team banked 40 points in back-to-back matchups.

Alabama converted on its first 11 third-down plays, not requiring the use of a punter until 13:12 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Auburn was knocked around by chief rivals Georgia and Auburn by a combined 87-0. The Tigers had not been shut out by the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide in the same year since 1906.

If Alabama’s second-stringers had punched it in from the Tigers’ 5-yard-line in the closing moments and followed up with an extra point, it would have been Auburn’s most lopsided SEC loss in school history.

On this 10-game SEC losing streak, Auburn has been outscored 359-102.

Parting gift: In the closing moments of enjoying the rout, the Alabama student section began rhythmically mocking their opponent’s head coach.

The students chanted “Chizik! Chizik” all the way until Gene Chizik had taken cover in the visiting locker room – flanked by a dozen security personnel.

Poor Parkey: When Alabama elected to receive the opening kickoff, Auburn junior placekicker Cody Parkey booted his 33 rd touchback of the season.

Since the Tigers never scored, that was the last time Parkey appeared on the field – before the game clock officially began running.

Hobbled veterans: A pair of Auburn senior defenders, cornerback T’Sharvan Bell and linebacker Daren Bates, each had to be helped off by the training staff in the first half. Bell returned to action, but Blake was replaced by freshman Kris Frost, and the Tigers’ top tackler finished with just three takedowns.

No Flo: Defensive back Erique Florence did not dress for the third time this season due to “personal issues”.

Every other regular traveled to Tuscaloosa and was in uniform. Freshman guard Christian Westerman (ankle) dressed but did not play, while temperamental safety Demetruce McNeal was benched in favor of Ryan Smith.

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