AUBURN, Ala. -- As
Auburn rushing yards: 440. LSU: 115.
Auburn total yards: 526. LSU: 243.
Beneath those, however, were the only numbers that mattered:
Only after the defense had stopped LSU one last time and after Newton had bled the last 3:20 off the clock could Auburn's wide-smiled star make his customary dash to the sideline, hurdle a 3-foot fence and join 87,451 delirious faithful in celebrating their latest victory.
"My adrenaline was still pumping," said Newton.
Auburn is now 8-0, the SEC's lone remaining undefeated team, and with the exception of Arkansas State and Louisiana-Monroe, every win has required nearly four full quarters of work.
"There were a lot of times in that game that it did not look good -- but I say that every week," said Auburn coach
A year ago, they were a middling 8-5 team just trying to find their identity under then first-year coach Chizik. Thanks in large part to the arrival of a certain magnetic, athletically gifted transfer quarterback, Auburn stands on the brink of a likely top-three ranking in the new BCS standings, enjoying its best season since
Newton put his stamp on Saturday's victory with yet-another career-high rushing night (topping the 198 he put on Kentucky two weeks ago), including a dazzling 49-yard third-quarter touchdown run that left no fewer than three LSU defensive backs on the ground, unable to get even a hand on him. "It's my job description to make that play," he said nonchalantly afterward.
But it would be disingenuous to say he did it alone. Behind a relentless offensive line and some textbook perimeter blocking by the receivers, Auburn racked up 440 rushing yards against an LSU defense that came in allowing just 83.6 yards per game. Freshman tailback
"It's a lot of hard work paying off," said guard
Auburn had to grind out yards, in part, because it often had the entire field to work with. As has been the case all season, LSU quarterbacks
As a result, Auburn, which had gone up 10-3 early in the second quarter, scored just once on its next seven possessions. After LSU tied the game 17-17 on Ware's pass early in the fourth quarter, Newton led Auburn from his own 20 to his opponent's 40 before a puzzling pair of play calls gave the ball back to LSU with 7:51 remaining.
But a dominant as Newton was on offense, defensive tackle
On first down, Newton burst for 16 yards, followed by a 4-yard Dyer run. Then McCalebb took a handoff around left end, found a seam and dashed 70 yards nearly untouched to the end zone. (Speedy LSU star
"Once I got around the corner," said McCalebb, "I wasn't going to let anybody catch me."
Suddenly, SEC opponents are down to just four more chances (or, if Auburn gets its way, five) to catch the Tigers.
The knock on Auburn coming into Saturday was its defense, fresh off a 65-43 shootout with Arkansas and ranked just 63rd nationally. Defense was not a problem Saturday, but it's hard to say how much of that was to Auburn's credit and how much was yet another poor offensive showing from LSU.
Still, with so many close wins week after week, Auburn
Could the letdown come next week at sure-to-be-overlooked Ole Miss? A couple of weeks later against Georgia? Or is this team destined to be 11-0 heading into what would surely the biggest Iron Bowl in two decades (Nov. 26 in Tuscaloosa)?
Predictably, Auburn coaches and players insisted they aren't taking anything for granted, that nothing can stop their weekly routine. But with the most hyped player in the country now residing in their locker room, with "Auburn" inching ever closer to the top of the various rankings, the noise is bound to grow even louder than this stadium was during Saturday's fourth-quarter defensive stops.
"It's in the back of your mind," admitted Pugh," and you're thinking about it when you're not in the football [complex]."
Inside those walls and on the practice field, however, the Tigers press on. Rest and recovery can wait until December. They're having too much fun right now to stop and think about the implications.
"We're playing as one," said defensive end
Why would they? As the Jordan-Hare fans shouted with ferocity Saturday, right now,