Published October 02, 2010
AUBURN, Ala. – Auburn's Cam Newton faked a handoff and then heaved a throw to Emory Blake, running all by himself down the middle of the field.
The result: a 94-yard touchdown that was the longest play from scrimmage in school history. It was that kind of day for the 10th-ranked Tigers, who routed 52-3 Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday.
Everything worked. Auburn (5-0) didn't even need Newton to run.
But the Tigers didn't let up against the heavy underdogs, either.
"We were kind of scared going into this game not knowing how we would react," Newton said. "But coach has always pressed us saying we just can't take a step back."
Indeed, Newton only took those when he was dropping back to pass.
He completed 14 of 19 passes for 245 yards with three touchdowns before sitting out most of the second half for the Tigers, who finally got a stress-free win after three straight close ones. The Southeastern Conference's top rusher going into Saturday, Newton didn't have a carry other than a sack, minimizing the punishment he absorbed.
"We are going to do and call and run what we feel like we have to run to win the game," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "(Saturday) was just one of those days where we felt like we could do some other things and take advantage of some things that they were doing defensively without running the quarterback as much."
ULM (1-3) fell to 3-35-1 all time against SEC teams and has been outscored 190-10 in the last four meetings with the Tigers.
Auburn had risen to the Top 10 after three straight wins that were decided in the final minutes. It didn't need any late drama in this one.
"It was a very bizarre feeling, but I'll take it every time," Chizik said.
The Tigers scored on their first five drives to build a 31-3 halftime lead, including a 50-yard TD run by Onterio McCalebb on the game's second play.
Then, on their next possession, Newton found Blake without a defender in his neighborhood. It made for a two-touchdown lead five minutes and four Auburn offensive plays into the game.
The two principals had slightly different takes on the play.
"I was really confident going into that play," Blake said. "I knew I was going to catch it and I knew there was no one around me, so I just caught it and ran into the end zone."
Newton just didn't want to mess it up.
"That throw was probably harder than hitting somebody in the hole," he said. "When he's wide open, everybody knows he's open. You don't want to underthrow it, you don't want to overthrow it. You just try to put it on him. There's more pressure. You've just got to calm yourself down and make the throw."
Tailbacks Michael Dyer and McCalebb, the Tigers' No. 2 and 3 rushers, combined for just 11 carries though both had touchdown runs. Mario Fannin gained 89 yards on 10 rushes, including a fourth-quarter touchdown.
And Newton? He was a spectator on the running plays after turning heads mostly with his legs in the first four games. Twice, he stayed in the pocket near the goal line in the second half when it appeared he could have run it in.
"That was the gameplan going in," he said. "I didn't think that I needed to run. That's what we have running backs for. I let them do their job and sit back and watch the show."
ULM quarterback Kolton Browning was effective moving the ball down the field with short passes and some option plays, but couldn't get the Warhawks into the end zone. He was 25-of-33 passing for 203 yards and was sacked three times.
"We knew we were not going to be able to push their defensive front so I put a lot of emphasis on our passing game this week in practice," ULM coach Todd Berry said. "We have a young quarterback that continues to mature. Most of the time we tried to get the ball out of our hands quickly in order to make sure that the defensive line was negated. This worked at times and sometimes it did not."
ULM didn't help its cause with three turnovers, including an interception on a fake field goal.
Auburn's defense held the Warhawks to 38 yards on 33 rushes. The Tigers gained 505 total yards.
"I think they played exceptionally hard and they kept us off balance from the offensive perspective," Berry said. "We have a lot of young players and we could not find the football and that is because of the style that Auburn runs. They have good athletes all around the field, but they just have a better, more mature team."
The Tigers have scored 52 points in each of their two meetings against Sun Belt Conference teams. The other game was a 52-26 opening win over Arkansas State.