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Newton, Tigers play for it all

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Cam Newton already has had a season for the ages. Tonight, on the biggest stage of his life, he’ll be called on once again.

Quarterback Cam Newton gets a hug from head coach Gene Chizik

A year and 10 days after signing with Auburn out of Blinn College, Newton, the Tigers' Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, is already the nation’s most decorated player. He has already led the way to the Southeastern Conference championship and No. 1 national ranking. But tonight he will have his chance to earn what he has said from the start he wants most of all.

The Tigers (13-0) will play No. 2 Oregon (12-0) in the BCS National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium. So anticipated is the matchup that ticket brokers say ticket demand has been higher than for any game in 20 years, and that includes Super Bowls.

Newton, the center of attention since Auburn’s football team arrived here last Monday, says it’s not about him. And he says he won’t be caught up in the atmosphere of college football's biggest show.

“The biggest thing is everybody taking ownership and being accountable for their roles on the team,” Newton said, harking back to message from former basketball All-American Chuck Person. “Earlier this season we had a speaker come and his main quote was ‘Everybody stay in their lanes.’ If you are a waterboy, serve water. If you are a playmaker, make plays.

“A wise man once told me ‘If you’re not having fun with it, why do it?’ God has blessed me with the talent to play football. If I’m not having fun doing it, why do it?”

If Auburn is to win its first widely recognized national championship since 1957, it will take more than Newton.

“I’m no one-man team,” Newton said. “There are a lot of great players on this team. A lot of them don’t get the recognition they deserve.”

There’s Mike Dyer, the most prolific runner in Auburn history. There’s the offensive linemen, to whom Newton points at every opportunity. There are wide receivers Darvin Adams, Terrell Zachery and Emory Blake. There is speedy tailback Onterio McCalebb. There’s sticky fingered tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen.

And there is the defense, led by tackle Nick Fairley and middle linebacker Josh Bynes, that improved dramatically as the season went on. Second-year coach Gene Chizik oversees it all.

But when times are tough, Auburn players on both sides of the ball look to Newton. And he hasn’t failed them yet.

“When you step on the field, he puts himself in that mode that he’s the best guy on the field and he’s going to do whatever it takes to be that guy and help his team win,” safety Zac Etheridge said. “That’s something he’s done all season. Once he steps between the white lines, you can just see it.”

The defense will be called on to deal with the nation most prolific offense, led by All-America tailback LaMichael James.

“We have a very good game plan defensively,” Chizik said. “… We’ve thought through everything extremely thoroughly. We have confidence in our defense. They are playing with confidence. They feel really great about the plan.”

As tens of thousands of Auburn fans have flooded into town, Chizik has told his players they will play for more than themselves. And they have taken it to heart.

“It’s a blessing to be here, and we have one more game to complete the season that we started working for last spring,” Lutzenkirchen said. “Auburn hasn’t won a championship since 1957 and has never won a BCS championship, so we’re just trying to bring it home to Auburn Nation.

KEY TEAM STATISTICS

tag linked="false" key="104627" url="http://247Sports.com"]OREGON[/tag]

Points per game: 49.3

Points allowed per game: 18.4

Rushing yards per game: 303.8

Rushing touchdowns: 42

Rushing yards allowed per game: 117.6

Passing yards per game: 233.7

Touchdown passes: 29

Passing yards allowed per game: 214.0

Total offense per game: 537.5

Total offense allowed per game: 331.6

AUBURN

Points per game: 42.5

Points allowed per game: 24.5

Rushing yards per game: 287.2

Rushing touchdowns: 41

Rushing yards allowed per game: 111.7

Passing yards per game: 210.5

Touchdown passes: 29

Passing yards allowed per game: 250.5

Total offense per game: 497.7

Total offense allowed per game: 362.2

KEY INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

OREGON

Rushing: LaMichael James 281 carries, 1,682 yards, 21 TD; Kenjon Barner 80 carries, 519 yards, 6 TD.

Passing: Darron Thomas 195-231-7, 2,518 yards, 28 TD.

Receiving: Jeff Maehl: 68 catches, 943 yards, 12 TD; D.J. Davis 36 catches, 410 yards, 3 TD; Lavasier Tuinei 33 catches, 321 yards, 2 TD.

Defense: Casey Matthews 73 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 3 INT, 3 QBH, 3 FR; Spencer Paysinger 68 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 FR; Bair Brandon 45 tackles, 15.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 QBH; Kenny Rowe 38 tackles, 12.5 TFL, 6 sacks, 3 QBH, 1 FR.

AUBURN

Rushing: Cam Newton 242 carries, 1,409 yards, 20 TD; Mike Dyer 160 carries, 950 yards, 5 TD; Onterio McCalebb 89 carries, 763 yards, 9 TD.

Passing: Cam Newton 165-246-6, 2,589 yards, 28 TD.

Receiving: Darvin Adams 48 catches, 909 yards, 7 TD; Terrell Zachery 37 catches, 557 yards, 4 TD; Emory Blake 29 catches, 500 yards, 7 TD; Philip Lutzenkirchen 13 catches, 137 yards, 5 TD.

Defense: Josh Bynes 71 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 1 sack, 3 INT, 8 QBH, 1 FF; Zac Etheridge 66 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 2 INT, 1 FR; Nick Fairley 55 tackles, 21 TFL, 10.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FR, 1 FF, 21 QBH.

SEASON RESULTS

OREGON

Oregon 72, New Mexico 0

Oregon 48, at Tennessee 13

Oregon 69, Portland State 0

Oregon 42, at Arizona State 31

Oregon 52, Stanford 31

Oregon 42, at Washington State 23

Oregon 60, UCLA 13

Oregon 53, at USC 32

Oregon 53, Washington 16

Oregon 15, at California 13

Oregon 48, Arizona 29

Oregon 37, at Oregon State 20

AUBURN

Auburn 52, Arkansas State 26

Auburn 17, at Mississippi State 14

Auburn 27, Clemson 24 (OT)

Auburn 35, South Carolina 27

Auburn 52, Louisiana-Monroe 3

Auburn 37, at Kentucky 34

Auburn 65, Arkansas 43

Auburn 24, LSU 17

Auburn 51, at Ole Miss 31

Auburn 62, Chattanooga 24

Auburn 49, Georgia 31

Auburn 28, at Alabama 27

Auburn 56, South Carolina 17

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