Tebow Jr. - Cam Newton making case for Heisman Trophy
Published: Monday, October 18, 2010 at 3:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 18, 2010 at 3:23 p.m.
AUBURN, Ala. — 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.