By Casey Keefe
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– No Distraction, Just Another Win: All eyes were on Cam Newton to see how he would respond – at least on the field – to all the controversy and criticism surrounding his off the field problems. Well, after a slow start, Newton became Newton. He totaled 299 yards (151 rushing) and 4 touchdowns to lead Auburn (11-0, 7-0) to a 49-31 runaway win over Georgia (5-6, 3-5), earning the Tigers the SEC West crown.

The Bulldogs stormed out the gates to a 21-7 first quarter lead, but Auburn came alive and took over, thanks largely in part to the Heisman front runner. The Tigers rushed for 315 yards as a team and were unstoppable in third down conversions (10-14) and dominant in time of possession (34:15 – 25:45).

It’s silly to think that there was actually a question as to whether Newton would start the game or not. The bottom line is the NCAA has nothing concrete against Newton – Until they do, they can’t force him to sit out a game… If anything, all the drama leading up to kickoff benefited Newton and the Tigers crowd. Yes, they fell behind early – but when they got rolling Georgia never stood a chance.

Auburn improves to 11-0 and 7-0 in the SEC. Whether Newton controls his own destiny in the Heisman race remains to be seen, but his team certainly does in their quest for a national championship.

– Ducks Survive Major Scare: Oregon’s trademark defense showed up, but their offense didn’t. The Ducks (10-0, 7-0) came in averaging 567 yards per game and 55 points per game. To say they were held down against Cal (5-5, 3-4) would be an understatement. They finished with 317 yards and 15 points which is a huge disappointment for their standards.

Sleepwalking through the first half, Oregon got a big boost in the second quarter when Cliff Harris returned a punt 64 yards for a touchdown. The score followed by a trick play two-point conversion gave the Ducks an 8-7 lead. The key sequence came in the opening drive of the third quarter when Cal running back Shane Vereen fumbled – Oregon recovered at Cal’s 29 yard. The next play Darron Thomas hit Jeff Maehl on a beautiful touchdown strike which gave the Ducks a 15-7 lead.

Cal would score on a defensive touchdown, but remained down two after a failed two-point conversion attempt. The deadly blow for the Golden Bears came in the fourth quarter when Giorgio Tavecchio missed a chip shot 29 yard field goal which would’ve given Cal the lead.

Oregon took over and went on a marathon 18 play drive which milked the final 9:32 off the clock. As good as the Golden Bears defense had played through three quarters, they just couldn’t get a stop when it mattered most. Oregon won 15-13 and remains undefeated on the campaign.

– Gamecocks Capture SEC East Title: South Carolina (7-3, 5-3) picked up their second win over Florida (6-4, 4-4) in 19 games, and clinched their first ever SEC East title while doing so. The final score was 36-14, and it wasn’t even that close. After Florida returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, it was all Gamecocks.

The star of the Swamp was running back Marcus Lattimore who rushed for 207 yards and 3 touchdowns. Equally as impressive was South Carolina’s defense which held the Gators to just 226 total yards (35 rushing). Florida’s offense rarely saw the field, getting outgained in time of possession more than 2-to-1.

Gamecocks quarterback Stephen Garcia was sharp and played with the sense of urgency he said he would. He was smart and sharp, not committing a turnover the entire night. This win was no doubt sweet for him as it must have been for Steve Spurrier who returned again to his old stomping grounds and walked out the East title.

– Hawkeyes Slip Up In Evanston: Iowa (7-3, 4-2) was upset 21-17 at the hands of the Northwestern Wildcats (7-3, 3-3). Anyone who has watched Northwestern this season can’t be shocked by this outcome. They’re a very tough team that hasn’t had too many breaks fall their way.

Down 17-7, the Wildcats outscored Iowa 14-0 in the fourth quarter thanks to the heroics from quarterback Dan Persa who threw for 361 yards and 3 touchdowns on the day. He hit Demetrius Fields for the decisive 20 yard touchdown strike with 1:22 remaining. The good news is that score won the game for Northwestern. The bad is Persa was lost for the season on the play, rupturing his achilles tendon. It’s a shame, but at least Persa went out on a high note.

Northwestern’s defense held Iowa’s dynamic offense to 371 yards and kept them out-of-sync all game long. Most importantly, they finally were able to close out a game on both sides of the ball – something they failed to do in previous games against Penn State, Michigan State and Purdue.

The Wildcats have now beaten Iowa 5 times in the last 6 meetings and are quietly putting together a very solid season. Iowa on the other hand lost themselves any chance they may have had at the Big 10 title.

– Irish Eyes Smile On Senior Day: Sometimes you just can’t figure things out. You though Utah (8-2, 5-1) would come out of the tunnel at South Bend foaming at the mouth after their embarrassing 47-7 loss to TCU last week. You thought they’d be too much for a Notre Dame (5-5) team that has struggled all year long. Well, you thought wrong.

Notre Dame without their star running back and tight end made easy work of the Utes behind freshman quarterback Tommy Rees who played mistake-free ball and passed for 3 scores. The Irish offense did their thing, but the 11 guys on defense are who won this game. They played their best game of the year and shut down an explosive offense which came in averaging 40 points per game. Utah could only muster a field goal in the 28-3 shellacking.

Notre Dame held Jordan Wynn and company to just 265 total yards, 71 on the ground. The game was never close as Utah never threatened. It was the Irish’s first win over a ranked team in four years. Standing at 5-5, they are just one win away from becoming bowl eligible.

– Orange Become Bowl Eligible: Syracuse (7-3, 4-2) knocked off rival Rutgers (4-5, 1-3) to become bowl eligible for the first time in 6 years. It wasn’t easy for the Orange as they had to overcome some offensive struggles and 3 turnovers, but they got the job done.

It was a defensive struggle – just 585 total yards were let up between both teams – but it was Syracuse who clamped down when the game was on the line. Tom Savage replaced Chas Dodd at quarterback for Rutgers, neither were effective. Freshman running back Jeremy Deering did rush for 166 yards and a touchdown, but the overall damage was limited.

Syracuse put together a late drive which resulted in Ross Krautman’s go-ahead (and game-winning) 24 yard field goal with 1:07 remaining. The kick made it 13-10 and propelled the Orange to a very important win, considering how wide open the Big East conference is.

– Huskies Back in Big East Picture: Believe it or not, the UConn Huskies (5-4, 2-2) are well within reach of the Big East championship and a BCS bowl berth. That’s a testament to how down the conference is this year, but Randy Edsall’s team isn’t apologizing to anyone. They out-toughed the Pittsburgh Panthers (5-4, 3-1) in their gutty 30-28 victory last Thursday night at Rentschler Field.

Dave Wannestedt warned his team all week that they were going to be in for a fight – sure enough they were, and it was a fight they lost. The Huskies won thanks to smart quarterbacking by Zach Frazier, a dominant rushing display by Jordan Todman (222 yards) and an overpowering performance from their offensive line.

Edsall created a new definition for “playing to win, rather than not to lose” when he elected to go for it on 4th-and-1 from his own 19 yard line, up 2 with 2:50 remaining. Todman got the first down and the Huskies milked the clock en route to one of the biggest wins in program history.

Check back tomorrow for my Tuesday Top 10…

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pixy Casey’s Call: College Football – Week 11 Recap

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