No. 3 AU rolls even without big runs from NewtonBy JOHN ZENOR, AP Sports Writer Sunday, Oct 31, 2010
OXFORD, Miss. (AP)—Cam Newton rattles off the numbers easily, but he’s not talking about his stats.
No. 3 Auburn’s quarterback happily listed the Tigers’ other playmakers— yes, they have some—after Saturday night’s 51-31 win at Mississippi. Auburn (9-0, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) racked up 343 yards rushing thanks more to the tailbacks than Newton, for a change.
“It’s big for this team’s psyche, that not only am I a threat but opponents have to gear up for No. 5, No. 23, No. 27, No. 89, No. 81,” Newton said. “There’s just so many people that come to mind when you talk about Auburn’s offense, not just me. Of course, I don’t want to have all the attention on me, because that only makes my job harder. Those guys came out here and any time they had an opportunity to make a play, they did.”
They had plenty of chances against the Rebels (3-5, 1-4), who lost their third straight game. Especially No. 5 (Mike Dyer), No. 23 (Onterio McCalebb) and No. 89 (Darvin Adams). Dyer took over the workhorse role from Newton, who had averaged 26.5 carries and 195 yards over the Tigers’ previous four SEC games.
The freshman Dyer gained a career-high 180 yards on 21 rushes for his second straight 100-yard effort. McCalebb counted a 68-yard touchdown among his nine carries for 99 yards. Adams had six catches for 75 yards, and all three scored touchdowns.
The results were the same, if not the methods: Lots of points, 572 total yards and a fifth consecutive 300-yard rushing performance in an SEC game, extending a school record. The Tigers now have five 500-yard games and have scored 50-plus points four times.
Newton’s 24 pass attempts was one short of his season high, and he completed 18.
Adams, Emory Blake and Terrell Zachery (No. 81) all had five or more catches to help offset the Rebels’ focus on containing Newton’s runs.
“They were loading the box up trying to stop Cam from running,” Blake said. “There was a lot of man situations going on. That helped open it up for the wide receivers.
“I hear a lot of people say we’re just a one-dimensional team and all we can do is run the ball. But we’re aware we have talent on the perimeter.”
For one play, that perimeter talent included Newton, who lined up at receiver and caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Kodi Burns.
“We’re just trying to score points, and Cam’s got that ability to do a lot of different things,” Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said. “When we named him the starter, we just said, ‘Hey, what are some ways to help our team win and score points?’ That’s not much of a shock for us. It probably is for the outside world.”
And how would Newton be as a receiver? “Really good. There’s no doubt.”
The Rebels managed to keep him in check as a running threat a week after Newton burned LSU for 217 yards. Newton gained 45 yards on 11 carries but still has a 400-yard edge over the SEC’s No. 2 rusher, South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore.
He did have a 24-yard touchdown pass to Adams and a late 10-yarder to Zachery. Malzahn said the Rebels forced Newton to hand off instead of faking and keeping but that slowed their pass rush down.
“With what they were giving us, it makes me go to our other option which is handing the ball off every single time,” Newton said. “That’s what I was doing.”
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt summed up the hazards in focusing on Newton’s runs.
“You want to go out and stop certain players, but when you gang up on one you leave other bases uncovered,” Nutt said.
And then there’s the gadget plays like Newton’s catch. Chizik said those are just part of a package that gives defensive coordinators at upcoming opponents Chattanooga, Georgia and No. 5 Alabama more to prepare for.
“It just opens up a whole new box of tricks that you have to try to defend,” Chizik said. “Our trick plays are our normal plays. That’s part of what we normally do. Some people call them tricks or whatnot but within our offense right now we do a lot of things that are staples in our offense. That’s what we do, that’s what we practice. You’ll see them again.”