Newton, Tigers blast Ole Miss

Published 12:30 am Sunday, October 31, 2010

OXFORD — This was no trap game for Auburn.

The Tigers looked liked the No. 1 team in the BCS standings after dismantling Ole Miss 51-31 Saturday night at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Auburn, ranked third in the Associated Press and USA Today’s Coaches poll, moved to 9-0 and 6-0 in SEC play with just two league games left, a home game with Georgia on Nov. 13 and a road date at defending national champion Alabama on Nov. 26. Ole Miss saw its bowl hopes slip with a 3-5 overall record with four games left. The Rebels are 1-4 in the SEC.

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Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, who came in as the leading Heisman Trophy candidate, did more damage to the Rebels with his hands and arm than with his legs. Newton had just 45 yards rushing, but completed 18-of-24 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught a 20-yard TD pass from receiver Kodi Burns.

“Our first goal was to finish the game,” Newton said. “We just plugged our ears about all the No. 1 stuff even though we’ve heard and seen that every week a No. 1 team had fallen short. We just focused on executing on offense and defense.”

The Tigers hit the Rebels on all fronts. Running back Michael Dyer rushed for 180 yards and a touchdown. Onterio McCalebb had 99 on just nine carries with one of those a 68-yard TD run. The Tigers finished with 571 yards of total offense, including 343 on the ground. That was enough to make Auburn coach Gene Chizik take a breath.

“It was a great win for us,” Chizik said. “I really felt our team stepped up to the plate. This is a very tough place to play against a very good football team. Every week, we try to find what’s the best way to move the football. It doesn’t matter who’s running it, throwing it or catching it. Michael Dyer rushed for over 100 yards and it probably was closer to 200. Tonight they did a good job taking Cam away in terms of the run game. That was their plan. We had to work other avenues.”

One of those was for Newton to become a receiver. After Ole Miss jumped out to a 7-0 lead on Jeff Scott’s 83-yard TD run on the game’s second play, Auburn answered with Newton’s TD catch.

“I just thought, just catch it by any means necessary,” Newton said. “It was something we saw in film study and wanted to exploit and we practiced it all week.”

Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said the credit for the Rebel defeat should go to Auburn’s offensive prowess.

“We came in tonight wanting to stop No. 2 (Newton) from running the ball and we did that,” Nutt said. “But he has other weapons. I think Auburn’s offensive line doesn’t get enough credit.”

Ole Miss had problems moving the ball after the first quarter. The Rebels had 218 yards rushing, but most of it came either in the first quarter or after the game was no longer in doubt.

After a 14-14 first quarter, the game turned against the Rebels after they recovered a fumble at the Auburn 20. Down just 17-14, they had a golden chance to retake the lead or at least tie it with a field goal, but two plays after the takeaway, Jeremiah Masoli was picked off by Demond Washington at the Auburn 2.

Newton led the Tigers on a momentum-changing 98-yard drive in 12 plays. The score came on a 24-yard TD pass to a wide-open Darvin Adams on a corner route.

Masoli led the Rebels to a reply as Bryson Adams booted a 32-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 24-17 with 2:41 left in the half.

It took just 15 seconds for the deficit to rise to 14 points.

Taking the ensuing kickoff from his own 5, Washington made a juke move near a pile of Rebels at the 20. The move created just enough of a gap for Washington to break toward the sideline. The Rebel kickoff team couldn’t catch up and Washington rolled home with a back-breaking 95-yard kickoff return to make it 31-17.

“Huge, huge play for us,” Chizik said.

The play had such an effect that Nutt gambled on a fourth-and-1 from his own 39 and lost.