Newton, Auburn win SEC shootout

Cam Newton kept looking up at the scoreboard, amazed as anyone

at the numbers he saw, climbing higher and higher with each

possession.

He wondered how many points it would take to win.

Fifty? Sixty? Seventy?

”I’m sitting there on the sideline saying, ‘Wow, we have this

many points, and they have that many points,”’ Auburn’s do-it-all

quarterback said. ”At one point, we didn’t want to score too fast

because it was like a heavyweight boxing match.”

When this offensive slugfest was done, the No. 7 Tigers had a

mind-boggling 65-43 victory over 12th-ranked Arkansas on Saturday,

the teams combining on a record for points in a Southeastern

Conference game that didn’t go to overtime.

Newton left little doubt he deserves to be in the mix for the

Heisman Trophy after running for 188 yards, passing for 140 and

having a hand in four touchdowns.

But let’s not forget a defense that finally came up with some

big stops in the fourth quarter. And certainly remember two

crucial, and sure to be debated, calls from the replay booth, both

of which upheld Auburn touchdowns and just as easily could’ve gone

Arkansas’ way.

”We refuse to lose,” Newton said.

He led Auburn (7-0, 4-0 SEC) with three touchdown runs,

including a three-yarder with 8 1/2 minutes remaining that

essentially clinched it. Newton also threw a 15-yard touchdown pass

to Emory Blake with 11:44 left, giving Auburn the lead for good at

44-43.

Arkansas (4-2, 1-2) might have seen its SEC title hopes dashed

and also lost its own Heisman hopeful, quarterback Ryan Mallett,

who went out in the first half after taking a blow to the head. But

Tyler Wilson took over at quarterback and the Razorbacks didn’t

miss a beat – not until the fourth quarter, anyway.

Auburn scored the final 28 points in a dizzying display, putting

up four touchdowns in a little over five minutes to finally finish

this one, setting off a raucous celebration as the sun set on the

Plains.

Newton ran around, over and through the Razorbacks, not to

mention a highly efficient 10-of-14 passing performance.

”No. 2 is one spectacular football player,” Auburn coach Gene

Chizik said. ”I’m not one to go out on a limb, but everyone in the

world can see it.”

On one touchdown, the 6-foot-6, 250-pounder barreled right over

linebacker Jerico Nelson like he was nothing more than a kicker

trying to make the stop. On another, Newton took a shotgun snap

from the 5-yard-line to get a running start so he could soar over

everyone for the score.

Wilson completed 15 of his first 17 passes for 270 yards and

four touchdowns, the last of them a 23-yarder to Greg Childs that

gave the Razorbacks a 43-37 lead with 14:09 remaining.

”There’s a point where you think, ‘This night is going to be

magical,”’ Wilson said.

But 43 wasn’t nearly enough points, not in a game that broke the

previous SEC scoring record: South Carolina’s 65-39 victory over

Mississippi State in 1995.

It was all Auburn from there. Well, Auburn and the guys

upstairs, who already had made a crucial ruling in the first half

that preserved a touchdown for the Tigers.

After Newton’s scoring pass to Blake, Arkansas picked up one

first down and appeared to have another when Broderick Green

barreled around right end for 4 yards. As he was brought down by

Craig Stevens and Mike Blanc, the ball suddenly popped loose.

Zac Etheridge picked it up for Auburn and took off the other

way, going 47 yards to the end zone.

Then, it was time for the replay officials to do their thing.

The video appeared to show Green putting a knee on the ground a

split-second before the ball popped loose and he was rolling over a

defender. Apparently, though, that wasn’t definitive enough to

overturn the call on the field.

Touchdown, Auburn.

”The fumble recovery started it all,” linebacker Josh Bynes

said. ”That is what changed the game.”

On the very next snap, Wilson finally cracked. An ill-advised

pass downfield was picked off by Bynes. He returned it 33 yards to

the Arkansas 7, and there was no way to stop Newton from there. He

rushed up the middle for 4 yards, then finished it off with more

carry up the middle.

He hopped along the end line, whipping up the Auburn student

body before he skipped away toward the bench.

Auburn finally had enough points to hold off the Razorbacks,

adding one more touchdown after Wilson’s second pick to win a game

that featured a staggering 1,036 yards, a blocked punt and a

99-yard kickoff return by Auburn’s Onterio McCalebb.

This was supposed to be one of the year’s top quarterback

matchups, but Mallett didn’t even make it to halftime. He was

knocked out after throwing a 7-yard touchdown pass for the game’s

first score – long forgotten by the end.

Wilson was quite the replacement for a guy averaging nearly 350

yards per game passing. The sophomore went to Childs for a pair of

TDs, also connecting on a 34-yarder, and hooked up with Joe Adams

on a 24-yard score and Ronnie Wingo on a 37-yarder.

”I was really happy with the way our guys rallied around Tyler

Wilson,” Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said.

The replay calls all went Auburn’s way, though, showing that

disputes can occur even with the benefit of video. The Tigers’

first big break came when Mario Fannin took a handoff at the 4 and

tumbled into the end zone. Only one problem: The ball was sitting

back at the 1. The Razorbacks scooped it up and thought they had

the turnover.

The officials huddled. While there had been no apparent

touchdown signal, they finally ruled that Fannin had crossed the

line before he lost the ball. That was crucial, because it wasn’t

possible from the various replay angles to tell if Tramine Thomas

knocked the ball loose before Fannin scored.

So, the Tigers got to celebrate. It wouldn’t be the last

time.