TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Cam Newton can seemingly handle anything thrown his way when he’s out on the field.
Accuse his dad of asking for a huge payoff, and heckle him with songs such as “Take The Money And Run” during pregame warmups? No problem.
Hand him a 24-point deficit against mighty Alabama, and make it a road game to raise the level of difficulty? He can handle that, too.
Love him or loathe him, Newton has no peer when he’s got a hundred yards to work with and a football in his hand. His latest feat in a season of triumph and controversy was his most improbable one yet — rallying No. 2 Auburn from a 24-0 deficit in the Iron Bowl to beat the ninth-ranked Crimson Tide 28-27 Friday.
Newton passed for three touchdowns. He ran for Auburn’s other score. The result was the biggest comeback ever for the Tigers, along with the worst meltdown in Alabama’s long, proud history.
“Cameron Newton is physically and mentally as tough as I’ve ever seen,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “Period.”
This one started like a total blowout. The Crimson Tide already had a 21-0 lead by the time the Tigers got their initial first down, and it seemed all those who felt Newton was too unsavory to hoist the Heisman Trophy or claim a national title would get their way.
Newton had other ideas.
He finally got Auburn on the board with a 36-yard touchdown pass to Emory Blake, cutting the deficit to 24-7. On the second play of the second half, Newton lofted a 70-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Zachery. Then, on a day when the massive quarterback couldn’t find much running room, he plunged in from the 1 to cut Alabama’s lead to 24-21.
After Alabama kicked its second field goal, Newton drove the Tigers for the decisive score. He completed a crucial fourth-down pass to Darvin Adams along the sideline to keep the possession alive. Finally, he rolled to his right and threw back across the field to a wide-open Philip Lutzenkirchen for a 7-yard TD with 11:55 remaining.
It was Auburn’s first lead of the game. It was enough.
Auburn heads to the Southeastern Conference championship game, a spot that had already been secured but takes on even more importance now. If the Tigers (12-0, 8-0 SEC) beat No. 18 South Carolina, they’ll certainly move on to play in the BCS title game.
Newton will remain under scrutiny over reports claiming his father, Cecil, tried to sell the quarterback’s services for as much as $180,000 when he was being recruited out of a Texas junior college. So far, it’s nothing more that allegations, and Auburn has stood by its man.