TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Cam Newton threw for three touchdowns and ran for another, leading No. 2 Auburn back from a 24-point deficit Friday for a stunning 28-27 victory over No. 9 Alabama that kept the Tigers on course for a shot at the national championship.
Auburn (12-0, 8-0 Southeastern Conference) trailed 21-0 before it even picked up a first down, and Alabama (9-3, 5-3) had a 314-2 lead in total yards at one point in the first half.
But Newton, with the signature performance in what has become a season of controversy, rallied the Tigers for a victory that left the crowd of more than 101,000 in stunned disbelief when it was over. He threw scoring passes of 36 yards to Emory Blake, 70 yards to Terrell Zachery and, finally, a 7-yarder to Philip Lutzenkirchen with 11:55 remaining that gave Auburn its first lead of the day.
It held up, keeping the Tigers perfect heading to next week’s SEC championship game against South Carolina. If Auburn wins that one, the reward will certainly be a spot in the national title game.
Newton also had a 1-yard TD run, and this may be the performance that locks up the Heisman Trophy – if allegations that his father sought a huge payout for the quarterback to sign out of junior college don’t weigh too heavily on the voters’ minds.
Certainly on the field, Newton has no peer.
It’s unlikely that anyone in the country could lead a team back from such a daunting deficit at Bryant-Denny Stadium, where Alabama had won 20 in a row. Newton didn’t do much on the ground, rushing for just 39 yards and enduring plenty of big hits in the backfield, including four sacks.
But Newton showed he’s no slouch with his arm, either, completing 13 of 20 for 216 yards.
The improbable comeback wouldn’t have been possible without some help from Alabama. Last year’s Heisman winner, Mark Ingram, fumbled the ball away at the end of a long run just when it looked like the Tide was about to blow the Tigers all the way back to the Plains.
Another fumble, this one coughed up by quarterback Greg McElroy after a big hit by Nick Fairley – and recovered by Fairley – cost the Tide another scoring chance deep in Auburn territory near the end of the first half.
Alabama still led 24-7 going to the locker room, but yet another miscue probably hurt the Tide most of all. On Auburn’s second play of the second half, Newton threw a deep pass for Zachery down the sideline. Alabama safety Mark Barron came racing over and appeared to have a chance either at the interception or a big hit on the receiver.
He got neither. Barron actually got to the receiver a little early and slid by him. Zachery came down with the ball and kept on going for the touchdown that cut the deficit to 24-14.
The comeback was on. The Tigers never slowed down.
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