Rebels no match for No. 1 Auburn
Published 12:57 am Sunday, October 31, 2010
OXFORD (AP) — Don’t call Cam Newton a dual threat. That sells the Auburn quarterback short.
Newton flashed another skill when he lined up at receiver, streaked down the sideline and outfought a much smaller defensive back for the ball in the end zone. Touchdown, Cam.
Newton caught that 20-yard touchdown pass on the Tigers’ opening series, threw for two more and the third-ranked Tigers powered past Mississippi 51-31 on Saturday night.
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“We practice that play a lot of times,” said Newton, the apparent Heisman Trophy front-runner. “Coach (Gus Malzahn) challenged me, that he was going to call it this game because of what we’ve seen throughout the week in the film. This was a perfect time to call it, and it worked.”
Just about everything else did, too, for Malzahn’s offense. The Tigers (9-0, 6-0 Southeastern Conference), who are ranked atop the BCS standings for the first time, easily sidestepped the string of upsets that had struck No. 1 teams in each of the past three weeks.
They did it with Newton’s catching and passing, and the running of Mike Dyer and Onterio McCalebb.
“Everybody on this team wants to continue to fight,” said Dyer, a freshman who ran for a career-high 180 yards. “We like where we’re ranked, and we just want to stay humble and find ways to keep winning.”
Newton also made a potential touchdown-saving tackle after Auburn lost a fumble in one of few offensive miscues, so add tackling to his list of talents, too.
The Rebels (3-4, 1-4) ended Newton’s string of four straight 170-yard rushing efforts against SEC defenses, but he still passed for 209. The TD catch on Auburn’s opening drive answered a quick touchdown from Ole Miss.
Newton became the third Auburn player to have touchdowns passing, rushing and receiving in the same season, joining Carnell Williams (2004) and Kodi Burns (2009), the quarterback-turned receiver who threw the pass to Newton. The 6-foot-6 Newton outfought 5-10 cornerback Jeremy McGee in the role reversal.
Newton has now been responsible for 30 touchdowns in nine games.
“It’s hard to defend a 6-6 receiver, or quarterback, whatever you want to call him,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “He has great athletic ability and we have no problem throwing the ball up for a jump ball. It’s just one of those situations where we worked on it going in.”
Auburn scored on Demond Washington’s 95-yard punt return, McCalebb’s 68-yard touchdown run and Dyer’s 30-yarder in a rare buffet of big plays not involving Newton.
It was the most points the Tigers have ever scored against Ole Miss, which has dropped three straight games.
Newton was 18-of-24 passing, and ran 11 times for 45 yards after running wild in recent weeks. He missed a couple of open receivers for possible touchdowns but got more than ample help from his supporting cast against the Rebels.
McCalebb had 99 yards on nine runs, and Darvin Adams gained 75 yards on six catches.
“We came out wanting to stop No. 2 (Newton) from running the ball and we did that, but he has many other weapons,” Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. “
The Tigers racked up 572 total yards and punted for the first time with less than three minutes left in the third quarter.
“I feel like we played horrible on defense,” Rebels defensive tackle D.T. Shackelford said. “We just didn’t get the job done.”
True to form, the Tigers won in a shootout with an offense that was potent enough to overcome whatever the defense allowed, though it didn’t rival the 65-43 win earlier over Arkansas.
Jeremiah Masoli, a transfer and running threat like Newton, completed 20 of 33 passes for 189 yards with a touchdown and an interception for Ole Miss. He ran for 29 yards.
Jeff Scott raced 83 yards for a touchdown on the second play from scrimmage for the Rebels. He finished with 134 yards on nine carries.
“He is an electrifying guy and can fly,” Nutt said. “He outran a championship-caliber team, and that is saying a lot for a freshman.”
Brandon Bolden rushed for touchdowns of 20 and 5 yards in the fourth quarter.
The Rebels briefly made some noise in the fourth after Auburn had gone on a 30-3 spurt. Ole Miss recovered the onside kick after Bolden’s 20-yarder.
The Rebels went three and out and then the teams traded touchdowns to end the rout.
It was just punctuation for a dominant offensive performance. The Tigers had a 98-yard drive after Washington’s interception near the goal line in the second quarter when Auburn’s lead was only three points.
Nutt’s fourth-and-1 gamble from his own 40 backfired late in the half. It failed, and Auburn added a field goal at the end to make it 34-17 at the half.
“It was huge to get the ball back and huge to get us some momentum going and to get three points,” Chizik said.