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Robinson, Ealy both come up big early in SEC title game

Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports
Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson has emerged as one of the top linemen in the SEC this season.

Auburn sophomore left tackle Greg Robinson and Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy, two of the nation's top underclassmen and potential 2014 NFL Draft picks, lined up across from each other for most of the SEC Championship Game Saturday evening. How did they fare? NFL.com's College Football 24/7 takes a close look at the matchup:

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First half: Ealy made two huge plays on back-to-back snaps on Auburn's opening drive that incorrectly foreshadowed a long day for Robinson. Ealy first stopped Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall for a loss of 3 yards, and on the next snap, sacked and stripped Marshall for a loss of 6 and a turnover as Missouri recovered the loose ball. On the sack, Robinson actually blocked inside and guard Chris Slade unsuccessfully tried to pick up Ealy on the edge. ... As it turned out, Robinson spent most of the first half crashing inside on defensive tackles Harold Brantley and Lucas Vincent, and doing a great job of it. Ealy, meanwhile, was frequently unblocked when the play went right, and even when the play went to his side, Ealy was at times unblocked as the defender Marshall would read for his zone-option plays. Although Marshall made Ealy look bad at times, Ealy was often playing assignments inside and getting poor support when Marshall pulled the ball and ran it around the edge. ... Robinson was flagged for holding on Ealy early in the game, which negated a 7-yard gain by Marshall. ... Ealy made one more huge play in the second quarter, stripping Marshall for his second caused fumble of the day, and Missouri cornerback E.J. Gaines scooped and scored on the recovery. ... Robinson's pass protection skills weren't tested much with Auburn attempting just six passes the entire half. His run blocking, however, was fantastic, particularly on power plays inside to Tre Mason. Just as he did a week earlier against Alabama, Robinson opened plenty of holes with down blocks inside. He recorded four pancake blocks in the first half. ... Ealy was spelled by backup Shane Ray on several series, and Robinson had little trouble with the 245-pound sophomore.

Second half: As far as Robinson's assignments, it was largely more of the same as the AU ground game took over. The third-year sophomore was caving in defensive tackles two to three times as often as he faced off with Ealy, with much the same in the way of results. He picked up a couple more pancake blocks in the second half for an unofficial total of six. ... Robinson and fullback Jay Prosch combined on a double team of Ray to spring a 19-yard gain for Mason in the third quarter. ... Robinson missed a block here and there in space, but was otherwise outstanding. ... Ealy posted a quiet second half and was visibly frustrated after the game before heading to the locker room. Ealy finished with three tackles for loss, a sack, and two forced fumbles among five stops.

Quoting Robinson: "We really didn't know to expect, and they tried everything. Our play was to just get a body on a body."

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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