ATLANTA – One of the best seasons in South Carolina history was no match for one of the best players in college football history.
Auburn quarterback Cam Newton led the No. 2 Tigers to a historic 56-17 victory in the SEC championship game here Saturday in the Georgia Dome.
More than 35,000 South Carolina fans, about half the total crowd of 75,802, made the trip hoping to see their team win its first SEC championship. Instead, they watched Newton rewrite the title game record book, throwing for 335 yards, rushing for another 73 and accounting for six touchdowns.
“If we played these guys 10 times, they may win nine of them or more,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said.
Auburn set records for most points, most touchdowns and largest margin of victory in the SEC title game.
“I apologize to Carolina fans that came,” Spurrier said. “That was the loudest pregame I’ve ever been to in my life. I wish we could have given them something to cheer about during the game, but we couldn’t do it. Auburn was too good for us.”
Newton, who was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, became the second player in major college football history to throw for at least 20 touchdowns and rush for at least 20 in the same season, joining former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.
“If you look over a 13-game span, I’ve never seen anything like it to be honest with you,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “I can say this because we’ve only got one game left and he can’t get too big a head in one game, but he is probably the best football player I have ever seen.”
Newton’s next stop is New York, where he will attend the Heisman Trophy ceremony on Saturday and almost certainly take home the Tigers’ first Heisman since Bo Jackson. From there, he will take the Tigers (13-0) to Glendale, Ariz., and the BCS national title game on Jan. 10 against Oregon.
“You can’t tackle him,” Spurrier said. “He’s certainly one of the best quarterbacks, runners probably ever come through college ball.”
The Gamecocks (9-4) will learn their postseason destination today. South Carolina still has a chance to win 10 games for the second time in school history, and several Gamecocks were searching for a silver lining.
“This takes a lot of life out of us for sure, seeing how we came into this game thinking we were ready to play, but we’ll just see what happens with whatever bowl game we go to,” senior kicker Spencer Lanning said.
Spurrier found some consolation he can take on the recruiting trail.
“We can still tell recruits you can be on that first SEC championship team,” he said. “So we can still say that. Going into my seventh year, I can still say that. Maybe we can make it happen here one day.”
South Carolina got 84 rushing yards from Marcus Lattimore but just 36 receiving yards from Alshon Jeffery, and that was not close to enough to keep pace with the Tigers, who beat the Gamecocks 35-27 earlier this season in Auburn, Ala.
Auburn opened the game with the highest scoring quarter in title game history (21 points) and never looked back. The Tigers finished with a title game-record 589 yards of offense, the most South Carolina has surrendered since a 2007 loss to Arkansas and the second-most since a 1995 loss to Florida.
Newton had the second-most yards in a title game with 408. He set the title game record for yards per play (9.7) and tied the record for touchdown responsibility with four passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns. He had 742 yards in two meetings against the Gamecocks this season.
He is “the best player in college football, that’s all you can say about him,” Lattimore said. “He can do anything.”
-- Defensive back C.C. Whitlock left in the second half due a sprained ACL and didn’t return.
-- Defensive lineman Melvin Ingram left with a calf injury in the first half but returned after a brief rest.
STEVE SPURRIER POSTGAME
Aub - McCalebb 12 pass from Newton (Byrum kick), 13:20.
USC - DiMarco 25 pass from Garcia (Lanning kick), 9:53.
Aub - Newton 5 run (Byrum kick), 5:31.
Aub - Adams 54 pass from Newton (Byrum kick), 2:09.
USC - A. Jeffery 1 pass from Garcia (Lanning kick), :16.
Aub - Adams 51 pass from Newton (Byrum kick), :00.
Aub - Newton 1 run (Byrum kick), 7:56.
Aub - Bell 10 interception return (Byrum kick), 7:23.
Aub - Blake 7 pass from Newton (Byrum kick), 11:14.
USC - FG Lanning 33, 7:48.
Aub - Fannin 6 run (Byrum kick), 2:22.
A - 75,802.
|Time of Possession||31:01||28:59|
RUSHING: Auburn, Newton 14-73, Dyer 14-64, Trotter 2-37, McCalebb 3-30, Fannin 6-28, Zachery 1-3, Burns 2-3. South Carolina, Lattimore 16-84, C.Shaw 6-49, Garcia 7-18, Maddox 1-5.
PASSING: Auburn, Newton 17-28-0-335, Trotter 1-1-0-16. South Carolina, Garcia 16-28-2-170, C.Shaw 4-5-0-23.
RECEIVING: Auburn, Adams 7-217, Blake 5-63, E.Smith 2-23, Lutzenkirchen 1-18, Winter 1-16, McCalebb 1-12, Zachery 1-2. South Carolina, A. Jeffery 4-36, Lattimore 3-36, Gurley 3-32, D.L. Moore 3-30, A. Sanders 3-9, DiMarco 2-38, Triglia 1-9, Miles 1-3.