Tebow Jr. turns in another dominating performance

Cam Newton welcomes all those comparisons to Tim Tebow.

”I’ll take that any day,” Auburn’s do-it-all quarterback
said.

Just don’t bother bringing up the award Tebow won as a
sophomore.

”The Heisman Trophy?” Newton said. ”You can throw that out
the window.”

But this isn’t like some defender he can zip past, or leap over,
or simply run over. The Heisman hype is really hitting its stride,
and the hottest pick at the moment might just be the charismatic
junior who used to back up Tebow at Florida.

Having landed squarely on his feet after legal troubles at
Florida and a year in exile at a Texas junior college, Newton has
guided No. 5 Auburn (7-0, 4-0 SEC) to its best start since the
perfect 2004 season. Given the state of some other Heisman
contenders, he might just be the new odds-on favorite to capture
college football’s top individual prize.

Newton turned in another dazzling performance Saturday against
Arkansas. He ran for 188 yards and three touchdowns. He passed for
140 yards and another score. When it was done, Auburn had scored 28
straight points in the fourth quarter for a wild 65-43 win over the
Razorbacks, breaking the record for the highest-scoring conference
game decided in regulation.

”He’s a strong guy,” said Arkansas defensive end Jake
Bequette. ”He’s also very fast and very elusive. You’ve got to
give that guy a lot of credit. He’s a great player. He’s going to
do that to a lot of people.”

He already has. This was the fourth time Newton has run for more
than 170 yards in a game, adding to his lead in the SEC rushing
race. He’s likely to remain the league’s most efficient passer, as
well, after completing 10 of 14 against the Razorbacks, including
15-yard touchdown pass to Emory Blake early in the fourth quarter,
putting the Tigers ahead for good.

Auburn coach Gene Chizik couldn’t contain himself after watching
Newton take another game on his shoulders, doing everything but
endorsing his quarterback for the Heisman.

”He just brings a dynamic to our team,” Chizik said. ”I
haven’t see everybody, but he has to be playing as good as the best
ones.”

Or better. Several Heisman contenders took a tumble Saturday,
most notably Michigan’s Denard Robinson, Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez
and Arkansas’ own quarterback, Ryan Mallett. All would end up on
the sideline – Robinson and Mallett with injuries, Martinez because
he was ineffective – and all three of their teams lost.

And don’t you just know that Newton’s old school would love to
have him back. With Tebow off to the NFL, Florida has fallen on
hard times. The Gators lost their third straight, and second at
home, with Mississippi State’s stunning 10-7 upset at the
Swamp.

Newton just keeps rolling along, a 6-foot-6, 250-pounder who
could pass for a lineman until he starts running like a speedy
little tailback.

He broke off rushes of 40, 27 and 22 yards against Arkansas,
usually finding just a sliver of a hole and bursting through it
with surprisingly quick feet for someone his size. On his first
touchdown, he ran over Arkansas linebacker Jerico Nelson, who at
5-10 and 214 pounds was simply no match. For his second TD, Newton
lined up in the shotgun on third-and-goal from the 1, which for
most QBs would seem like an odd call.

Why start 5 yards behind the line instead of right up close to
the end zone?

But Newton isn’t like most quarterback. He took the snap, got a
running start and soared over his own line and Arkansas’ line, not
coming down ’til he was in the end zone.

”He did a great job leading his team,” Nelson said. ”He put
the ball in his own hands, he broke tackles and he got into the end
zone.”

Newton has rushed for 860 yards and 12 touchdowns, the sort of
numbers that inevitably make people think of Tebow. And like the
former Florida star, Newton is no one-dimensional wonder. He
doesn’t throw often, but when he does, it’s very effective. His
outing against Arkansas left him 80 of 122 for the season, a
dazzling 66 percent completion rate. He’s thrown for 13 touchdowns
and been picked off only five times.

”He’s a competitor, he wants the ball, he is humble, he keeps
working,” Chizik said, ”and he gives us a chance to win every
week.”

That’ll help out in the games to come. Auburn hosts No. 6 LSU
(7-0, 4-0) next Saturday in another huge conference game. Lurking
at the end of the regular season is the annual Iron Bowl throwdown
against defending national champion Alabama, in Tuscaloosa no
less.

While Newton is good with the comparisons to Tebow, he doesn’t
want it to go too far.

”We’re two different players, two different people,” Newton
said. ”Tebow is Tebow, and I’m Cam Newton.”

For Auburn – and maybe the Heisman voters – that’s good
enough.