AUBURN - In a shootout for the ages, Auburn's football team found a way again as dusk fell on Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday.
Auburnb quarterback Cam Newton goes airborne for one of his three touchdowns/AuburnUndercover.com photo
There was quarterback Cam Newton, who has yet to find a defense that can contain him. There was the best special teams performance in recent memory. And there was a defense, beaten, bludgeoned and bloodied, that rose up in the fourth quarter to score one touchdown and set up two more.
When it was over, when the capacity crowd of 87,411 could finally celebrate, the scoreboard lights told the story:
Auburn 65, Arkansas 43.
Never before had an Auburn football team scored so many points in a Southeastern Conference game. The two teams combined for the most points ever scored in an SEC game that didn't go to overtime, And when it was over, Gene Chizik's second Auburn team, ranked No.. 7 and uopwardly mobile, marched on, moving to 7-0 overall, 4-0 in the SEC. No. 12 Arkansas, surely wondering how a 43-37 fourth-quarter lead turned into a three-touchdown loss, fell to 4-2 and 1-2.
The fourth quarter was Auburn's quarter, as it has been week after week, game after game. This time, the Tigers scored 28 unanswered points to write a spectacular ending to a day to remember.
"I just feel really blessed to be around such an unbelievable group of young men," Chizik said. "This football team amazes me in different ways every week. That was an extremely good football team tonight, and I guess it was another way we found to win a game."
In fact, the Tigers found lots of ways.
Newton, climbing ever higher on the list of Heisman Trophy candidates, ran 25 times for 188 yards and scored three touchdowns. He completed 10-of-14 passes for 140 yards and another touchdown. Onterio McCalebb returned a kickoff 99 yards to the Arkansas 1 to set up a touchdown. Freshman Antonio Goodwin blocked an Arkansas punt to set up another. Mario Fannin gained 60 tough yards and scored a touchdown on 14 carries. McCalebb scored on a 13-yard run. Freshman Mike Dyer closed it out against his homestate school with a 38-yard run.
And then there was the defense in the fourth quarter. Safety Zac Etheridge returned a fumble 47 yards to give Auburn a 51-43 lead. Josh Bynes intercepted two Tyler Wilson passes to set up touchdowns.
Wilson was in the game because Auburn defensive tackle knocked start Ryan Mallett out of it in the second quarter. But Wilson, a third-year sophomore didn't flinch. He completed 25-of-34 passes for 332 yards and four touchdowns,.
Arkansas outgained Auburn 566 yards to 470, but the Tigers had no turnovers to Arkansas three. And they 221 yards on five kickoff returns.
Bobby Petrino, Auburn's offensive coordinator in 2004, lost to the Tigers for the first time after two straight wins.
"It was a tough game for us," Petrino said. "You have to tip your hat to Auburn. They played well, and Cam Newton did an unbelievable job. We matched them for three quarters."
But they couldn't match Auburn in the fourth. The Tigers move on to yet another showdown. LSU comes to Jordan-Hare Stadium next Saturday.