AUBURN – Cam Newton raced for the Auburn section, leaping a fence along the way. As the roar grew louder, he thrust his arms into the air, high-fiving anyone in sight. He bounded up the stairs and joined some teammates who had taken up with the band.
Quarterback Cam Newton helps douse coach Gene Chizik as time runs out/AuburnUndercover.com photo
It was vintage Newton, the passion overflowing. And the crowd loved it.
At the end of a bizarre week that surely had his gut churning, Newton made his statement on the field. And he made it loudly and clearly the only way he knew how.
After No. 2 Auburn had spotted Georgia a 21-7 lead, Newton led a performance so overpowering that it left the Bulldogs beaten and bloodied when it was it was over. Starting in the second quarter, the Tigers scored on five consecutive possessions and buried their most ancient foe 49-18.
Auburn players celebrated an accomplishment that was a dream when they started preseason practice in August. They won the West Division championship and earned a trip to Atlanta for the Southeastern Conference Game.
They moved to 11-0, 7-0 in the SEC, and to within two wins of a trip to Glendale, Ariz., for the BCS Championship Game. And they broke a four-year drought against Georgia.
The controversy surrounding Newton and his recruitment at Mississippi State last December seemed far away as players and coaches swayed to their theme song, “Lean on Me.”
Though players and coaches wouldn’t talk about it, there will still be nervousness until the NCAA has finished its work. But on Saturday night, Nov. 13, Jordan-Hare Stadium was one wonderful place to be if you were part of Auburn’s football team.
If the events of the past week distracted Newton, it didn’t show. He rushed 30 times for 151 yards and a touchdown and completed 12-of-15 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns. Two of his incompletions were dropped.
He became the first player in SEC history to pass for at least 2,000 yards and rush for at least 1,000 yards in the same season. Unless voters find an off-the-field way to leave him off their ballots, he ended the race for the Heisman Trophy.
Newton didn’t visit the interview after the game, but gave quotes to the Auburn media relations department.
“I’m a blessed individual on a blessed team,” Newton said. “I would not have any of the success I’ve had without the offensive line, the receivers and the running backs around me. We have worked so hard as a team the entire season. Everybody is doing their jobs in the system. It’s a great feeling when it comes together.”
The offensive line took over the line of scrimmage in the final three quarters. Running back Onterio McCalebb scored three touchdowns. Freshman Mike Dyer rushed 13 times for 60 yards, breaking Bo Jackson’s 28-year-old freshman record. Tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen came back from an injury in style, catching both of Newton’s touchdown passes.
And after Georgia scored touchdowns on three consecutive possessions in the first half, the defense gave up just 10 points over the final three quarters.
Auburn’s offense broke the 300-yard rushing barrier for the sixth consecutive SEC game, surely a league record.
Second-year coach Gene Chizik saluted his players.
“They play as a family,” Chizik said, “and I could be more blessed personally in my life to be around such great people – great coaches, great administrators and players who are a joy to be around. They care about Auburn and they care about this football team. They never cease to amaze me.”
Chizik broke out of his conservative ways and called an onside kick to start the second half. Kicker Wes Byrum recovered it, Auburn swept to a touchdown to take the lead and never trailed again.
The difference in the game, Georgia coach Mark Richt said, was obvious.
“We just couldn’t stop them,” he said. “That was the biggest difference. We didn’t continue to score, and that’s all there was to it.”
Georgia, which had won four of its previous five games, was left at 5-6 and needing to beat Georgia Tech to be bowl eligible.
Auburn drove 80 yards in just five plays on its opening possession. Newton ran 31 yards for a touchdown and it was 7-0. But Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray answered with a 31-yard touchdown pass to incomparable A.J. Green, who caught nine passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns.
After a Newton pass went through Emory Blake’s hands and was intercepted and returned to the Auburn 9, Murray hit Shaun Capes with a 9-yard touchdown pass. Then, on fourth-and-1, he hit Green with a 40-yard touchdown pass. With 1:00 left in the first quarter, Georgia led 21-7.
But most of the Bulldogs’ fun was over. The Tigers were just getting started.
McCalebb ran 4 yards to make it 21-14 and Newton gunned a strike to Lutzenkirchen for an 18-yard touchdown that tied it with 51 seconds left in the first half.
McCalebb ran 2 yards to make it 28-21 after the onside kick, but Georgia teams don’t go away so easily. Washaun Ealey tied it with a 7-yard run.
McCalebb ran 4 yards to make it 34-28, and Georgia answered with a Blair Walsh field goal with 5:04 left in the third quarter. Newton hit Lutzenkirchen for a 13-yard touchdown with 8:05 left and ran 1 yard to close it out with 2:45 left.