2010-11 COLLEGE FOOTBALL POSTSEASON SPECIAL COVERAGE – SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Everyone’s been talking about Auburn quarterback Cam Newton all week, mostly for the wrong reasons.
That talk isn’t likely to decrease. But after the SEC championship game Saturday, it may take on a different tint: Heisman hype.
Game MVP Newton became the second player in NCAA history to run and pass for 20 touchdowns in a season, guiding BCS top-ranked Auburn to an emphatic 56-17 win over South Carolina in Atlanta.
With the win, the Tigers (13-0, No. 2 AP) likely clinched a berth in the national championship game in Glendale, Ariz., Jan. 10. They are projected to face Oregon, which capped a 12-0 regular season with a win over Oregon State Saturday.
As for Newton, who was briefly ineligible this week due to an amateurism violation before the NCAA reversed course and reinstated him for this game? He threw for 335 yards and four scores and ran for 73 yards and two touchdowns and will attempt to ride a strong SEC title game performance to the Heisman Trophy, similar to Alabama’s Mark Ingram’s course to the Heisman last year.
Auburn was up just one touchdown in the last 15 seconds of the second quarter before seizing momentum for good with a stunning play to end the first half. Newton scrambled to the right sideline and flung the ball into the end zone from 51 yards away. South Carolina’s DeVonte Holloman tipped it in the air and the Tigers’ Darvin Adams snagged it for a touchdown as time expired. Wes Byrum’s extra point gave Auburn a 28-14 lead.
South Carolina (9-4, No. 18 AP) took possession to begin the second half, but Spencer Lanning missed a 42-yard field goal wide right, and the Tigers made everything look easy from there out. Newton scrambled left for 25 yards to convert third-and-2 and lofted a pass to Emory Blake for 39 yards up the sideline before finishing off the drive himself with a 1-yard touchdown run.
On the Gamecocks’ ensuing possession, pressured quarterback Stephen Garcia threw the ball right into Auburn’s T’Sharvan Bell’s arms. Bell practically waltzed the 10 yards to paydirt, and Byrum’s boot put the Tigers up 42-14.
One offensive possession later, Auburn put together a grind-it-out-style drive for seven more points. Michael Dyer ran for three first downs, Onterio McCalebb gained 22 yards on a sweep, Dyer and Newton picked up first downs on the ground and Newton hit Blake on a fade for a 7-yard touchdown pass.
After a 33-yard Lanning field goal, Newton and most of the Tigers’ offensive starters came off the field to an ovation, but the Auburn offense wasn’t finished. Backup quarterback Barrett Trotter ran for 34 yards two plays before Mario Fannin ran six yards for a touchdown with 5:26 to go.
Earlier, Auburn opened things up offensively on its first possession to take the first lead of the game. Newton found Adams on play-action on the second play from scrimmage for 62 yards, and a wide-open McCalebb came out of the backfield and caught a 12-yard touchdown pass.
South Carolina evened the score when Garcia found fullback Patrick DiMarco on play-action for a 25-yard touchdown. Newton responded with a 5-yard touchdown run to regain the lead, and after a Gamecock punt, Newton hit Adams, running free up the sideline with a 7-yard lead on defender Stephon Gilmore, for a 54-yard touchdown and a two-touchdown lead.
Lanning and Byrum traded missed field goals before South Carolina made a sustained drive to cut its deficit in half. Marcus Lattimore caught a pass for 26 yards on third-and-9 before Garcia and Alshon Jeffery hooked up for a 1-yard touchdown with 16 seconds left in the half.
Of course, then Auburn took control for good on its way to its seventh SEC title.
Adams caught seven passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns for the Tigers.
NOTES: Newton was declared ineligible by Auburn on Tuesday and reinstated by the NCAA on Wednesday. The NCAA determined Newton’s father solicited payment from Mississippi State during Newton’s recruitment, but that Newton himself knew nothing of the matter. … South Carolina was seeking its first SEC title. It has only won one conference title ever, the ACC crown in 1969. … Auburn leads the all-time series 8-1-1 and has won five straight. … This was Auburn’s sixth game with 50 or more points this season, a school record. … Auburn gained 589 yards, holding the Gamecocks to 349.
Photo above: Cam Newton celebrates Saturday. (Brant Sanderlin/Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Video credit – CBS