AUBURN, Ala. -- Get it out, Auburn. Get it all out now.
Party your behinds off. Burn the mother to the ground. T.P. the town if you want. Live 'til you Dye. War Cam Eagle and all that. Saturday might be all you have.
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The Cam Newton Phenomenon could be down to a fleeting romance until further notice.
Because there were no words from the nation's best player Saturday, the school's non-actions spoke louder. After lighting up Georgia in a historic 49-31 win and after his smile lit up a giddy Jordan-Hare Stadium, we got plenty of nothing from Newton himself.
No interviews. No sightings after he disappeared into the locker room. No nothing. His coach wouldn't even answer why his best player has internalized everything so well. The most amazing part of this ordeal has been Newton playing like the NCAA never entered his life.
"Again, I’m going to answer questions more pertaining to the game tonight ...," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "I felt like he's done just about what he's done in every other game this year."
Thank you, Dr. Buzzkill. And so it went after one of the biggest days in Auburn history. The Tigers clinched the SEC West, booking a trip to Atlanta for the conference championship three weeks from now. Freshman Michael Dyer broke Bo Jackson's freshman rushing record. The last time the Tigers were 11-0 (2004), the BCS was in the process of not letting them in the championship game.
If they keep winning, there's no doubt they will be there this time. But if they keep playing Newton, there is plenty of doubt. That's why the result had a tentative quality to it. Start with Chizik's pregame qualifier that Newton was the starting quarterback "today."
That beat the hell out of the last nine days, when Newton went from a bartered commodity to a person of interest in an ongoing NCAA investigation. It was a relief to the majority of the 87,000 fans that Newton's fate jumped off the TV crawl and back onto the field, if only for an afternoon. Now we've got 13 days until the Iron Bowl to endure the latest dispatches.
Any residual joy from The Plains, then, had to be spent Saturday because nothing -- I repeat, nothing -- is assured from here on out. Even though Cam's father, Cecil, reportedly spilled his guts about attempting to sell his son's services to Mississippi State, the soul-cleansing only got the nation's best player on the field in time to beat the Bulldogs and clinch a spot in that SEC title game.
"All I know is he played tonight," Chizik said after the game.
"That guy," he added, "is solid as a rock."
Not solid enough, apparently, to meet reporters. That was both disappointing and revealing. The kid has been as money off the field as he has been on it through this ordeal. Maybe the NCAA is telling Auburn to shut the hell up. College sports' governing body already has had preliminary talks with Kenny Rogers. And the former Mississippi State player and self-proclaimed "in-between" man, who has done enough in the past few days to ruin the rep of everyone from Newton to the country singer who shares his name, reportedly will meet with NCAA investigators next week on the matter.
Auburn putting Newton on the field could be a calculated risk. Another report Saturday stated Newton knew nothing of his father's reported dealings with Mississippi State. That doesn't necessarily clear him with the NCAA. His appearance could be nothing more than a what-the-heck by Auburn. Its star has been on the field for 10 games. Why yank him now? Who needs banners, records and, well, wins that could one day be taken away by the NCAA? Auburn is -- as placards all over the stadium read -- "All In."
"This is not," one SEC official said before the game, "a black and white issue."
It was, however, Newton's day that extended into night with a tidy 3-hour, 39-minute marathon. With 299 yards in total offense, Newton became the first player in SEC history to throw for 2,000 and rush for 1,000 in a season. There were four more touchdowns (two rushing, two passing) getting him closer to becoming the second 20-20 player in history.
|QB Cam Newton revels in the adoration of Auburn faithful after the Tigers beat Georgia on Saturday. (AP)|
"Breaking news," read one, "Cam has stolen my heart."
But he is not out of the woods.
Too bad, because Auburn against anyone in the BCS title game would be worth it. The Tigers have become Oregon East with a power running game that rivals the Ducks' offense. Fourteen minutes into Saturday's game, it looked like you could spell upset C-E-C-I-L. Auburn looked distracted. Georgia looked predatory, taking advantage of the nation's No. 95 pass defense to grab a 21-7 lead.
At that point it looked like a seller's market. Georgia's A.J. Green had sold his jersey. Cecil Newton reportedly tried to sell his son. The jersey guy won the first half but lost the game despite a career day: nine catches, 164 yards, two touchdowns.
"It's hard to focus when you're a quarterback and you've got all that stuff surrounding you," Green said. "I feel like he handled the show in a professional way."
"Show" is a good way to put it. These Tigers choose to overwhelm you.
After trailing by two touchdowns, they scored 42 of the next 52 points. For the seventh time they came from behind. For the third time they came back from a double-digit deficit. Newton pounded Georgia, carrying 30 times for 151 yards. Dyer had only 60 yards but one of those moments that will be preserved in Auburn memory. After Dyer had broken his freshman record, Bo snuck up behind him, grabbed his hand and raised it like Dyer had just won a title fight. The video board caught every moment.
There is a real title still out there. Linebacker Josh Bynes knows it. That's why he may have fibbed just a little when asked what the last nine days were like for a distracted, distressed but still great Auburn.
"Normal," Bynes said.
If that was normal, big guy, you may have to get ready in coming days for the new normal.