Newton, No. 5 Auburn top LSU, 24-17
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -- Cam Newton and No. 5 Auburn are the last unbeaten team in the SEC. Not even LSU's defense could slow them down.
With Newton's standard mix of power and elusiveness, a huge play from Onterio McCalebb and a stingy performance from Nick Fairley and the defense, Auburn survived for a 24-17 victory over No. 6 LSU on Saturday.
The host Tigers (8-0, 5-0) lead the SEC West and are the league's best chance to produce a fifth straight national champion.
As for LSU (7-1, 4-1), those Tigers couldn't slow down Newton and coach Les Miles' latest gamble in an adventurous season backfired.
The league's best offense won a showdown versus the top defense hands down. The team's 440 yards rushing was the most Auburn had ever rung up against an SEC defense.
"Going into this game, we knew it was the No. 1 offense vs. the No. 1 defense, the clash of the Titans," said Newton, who has already run for more yards than any other SEC quarterback. "There was licks I was taking from different people left and right. We knew that was going to be the case going into this game."
Newton's record-setting performance was another impressive entry in his Heisman Trophy candidacy. He ran for 217 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries, and McCalebb sprinted 70 yards for the go-ahead score with 5:05 left.
Newton broke the league's single-season rushing mark for a quarterback of 1,006 yards by Auburn's Jimmy Sidle in 1963 two-thirds through the season. He also topped Heisman winner Pat Sullivan's 40-year-old school mark of 26 TDs rushing and passing in a season.
Miles, meanwhile, stirred up late-game weirdness yet again, this time in defeat.
He opted to go for it on fourth-and-6 from LSU's 30 after calling timeout with 3:27 left. The Tigers still seemed unsure of what they wanted to do on the pivotal play. Jarrett Lee, the passing portion of his team's quarterback tandem, tried to scramble for the first down but was stopped well short by Neiko Thorpe.
Miles said the decision was "not close at all."
"I just wanted to make sure we had the right call," he said. "I just felt like the way they were controlling the ball on the ground and then the chance of mishandling the punt..."
Miles had been saved by a few inches on a fake field goal that worked against Florida and a mulligan after a Tennessee penalty allowed the winning touchdown. This time he just gave it back to Newton and Auburn. The huge quarterback ran for two first downs before taking a knee twice to let the clock run out.
This game predictably also went down to the final minutes for two teams that have been living on the edge. And the fans of an improbable national championship contender mostly lingered in the stands to celebrate after dwelling in defending national champion Alabama's shadow the past two seasons.
Newton joined them briefly with a celebratory jump into the student section, yet another crowd-pleasing move.
"Obviously that was another great, great game," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "It came down to the end and somehow or other our football team found a way to win it."
Newton was a decoy on the decisive scoring play, though. McCalebb came across on a sweep that Newton often fakes on and keeps for some of his biggest runs. This time he gave it away and the speedy McCalebb made one cut and won the sprint to the end zone.
"Cam just gave it to me, and I did what I have to do, but all the credit goes to the offensive line," McCalebb said. "They gave me the blocks to make it."
With that, Auburn had covered 90 yards in three plays.
Newton turned in a highlight-reel, 49-yard touchdown and completed 10 of 16 passes for 86 yards.
"He's a great player, about the best in the country," LSU linebacker Kelvin Sheppard said. "Plain and simple, he's the best quarterback in the country."
Newton flashed his blend of power and speed on his biggest run. He was nearly tripped up but reached his right hand down to catch his balance, juked two defenders and grabbed LSU star Patrick Peterson into the end zone.
Newton described it as "just a simple play we were calling all night."
"That particular play, the offensive line did their job and it was left to me to do my job," Newton said. "There was a lot of missed tackles, and I just tried to make the most of it."
Newton got plenty of big-play help for a change. Freshman Mike Dyer ran for 100 yards on 15 carries and McCalebb ran four times for 84.
And Auburn ran for 300-plus yards for the fourth straight time against an SEC defense, none more impressive. This time Auburn gained 526 total yards against the nation's No. 3 defense, which came in allowing 242 a game. Auburn ran for 162 in the fourth quarter alone.
Auburn's own much-maligned defense allowed just 243 yards -- including 2½ sacks by tackle Fairley -- and limited Lee and Jordan Jefferson to a combined 89 yards passing. Jefferson did run for 74 yards.
LSU had twice scored tying touchdowns, pulling even with a halfback pass that worked perfectly early in the fourth quarter. Jefferson lateralled to Spencer Ware, who heaved it downfield to a Rueben Randle for a 39-yard touchdown.
The sputtering offense supplied few other big plays.