AUBURN, Ala. – Cam Newton and No. 17 Auburn are hard to stop once they get going.
The Tigers' 250-pound quarterback rushed for 176 yards and three touchdowns and passed for two more scores. Auburn then forced four fourth-quarter turnovers to pull off another come-from-behind victory, this one 35-27 against No. 12 South Carolina on Saturday night.
"We've got a lot of guys on this team that are relentless," was Newton's explanation.
Certainly, they're resilient.
The Tigers (4-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) overcame a double-digit halftime deficit for the second straight week against a team from the Palmetto State, this time falling behind 20-7. Both of Newton's scoring passes came in the fourth quarter after fumbles by South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia.
South Carolina (3-1, 1-1) twice drove into Auburn territory in the final minutes behind freshman backup Connor Shaw, but he was intercepted each time. Demond Washington picked off a pass that deflected off the hands of receiver Alshon Jeffery in the end zone with 33 seconds left to seal the win.
Newton was 16-of-21 passing for 158 yards and also logged 25 runs, including a 54-yard TD scamper after a nice fake handoff in the first quarter.
Auburn racked up 334 yards rushing against a defense that came in giving up a league-low 60 yards on the ground.
The Tigers trailed Clemson 17-0 late in the first half last week before winning in overtime on a missed field goal. They escaped again without needing the lucky break.
"They have the word 'respond' that we use a lot," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "Our guys just responded. It's not always pretty. There's a lot of things that if we look back on it, they're not good. But these guys are fighting, clawing, scratching trying to find a way to win every week."
He had challenged the offensive line to get more physical after the Clemson game. Newton felt like they answered.
"They got a beating from coach Chizik this week," he said. "They did what they're coached to do, and it shows in the statistics."
The Tigers were ball hogs in a dominant second half, running 49 plays to South Carolina's 22.
The Gamecocks had no turnovers in the first three quarters and four in the final 15 minutes to waylay a bid for their first 4-0 start since 2001. South Carolina was also seeking SEC win No. 107 for coach Steve Spurrier, which would have given him sole possession of second-place behind Alabama's Bear Bryant. Instead, the Gamecocks left with their sixth straight loss in league road games and fifth in a row against Auburn since joining the SEC.
"We had trouble stopping them, but we stopped them enough and then our quarterback fumbled a few times and they scored," Spurrier said. "But still we moved the ball. In close games against good teams if we get good plays we've got to make them. That's the size of it."
Added Garcia: "You just can't fumble twice in the second half — that killed every single drive and pretty much killed momentum."
There was some give and take in that regard. Earlier Auburn had lost three fumbles, and the first two set up South Carolina touchdown drives.
Shaw took the Gamecocks downfield on both his drives but, threw the ball right to linebacker Josh Bynes under pressure for an interception at the 11 to end the first.
"I saw the receiver stop out of the corner of my eye," Bynes said. "I just kept my coverage and didn't budge one bit. I knew that somehow, someway the ball was going to come to me."
Auburn failed to get a first down on three straight Newton runs, but then capitalized on one of the few balls Jeffery didn't bring down.
"That's he reason I let it go, find No. 1 (Jeffery)," Shaw said. "And you think he's going to come down with it but it just doesn't always happen like that."
He had eight catches for 192 yards and caught two of Garcia's three touchdown passes. Garcia went 15-of-21 passing for 235 yards, but was sacked three times and had two costly fumbles before being pulled in the fourth quarter.
Spurrier demurred when asked if he had a quarterback controversy.
The Tigers' Michael Dyer won the battle of highly touted freshman running backs, outgaining Marcus Lattimore 100-33.
Dyer had 23 carries and 78 yards in the second half.
"I asked him before the game, 'Can you carry it 20 times?'" Chizik said. "He just kind of laughed and said, 'Are you kidding me?' It seemed like he got a little stronger as the game went along."
The defense and Newton's timely passing carried the day in the end.
He completed a 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen to take a one-point lead early in the fourth.
Then, Emory Blake jumped over a diving defender and just pushed the ball over the goal line for a 12-yard TD with 6:23 left.
The Gamecocks wore stickers on their helmets honoring former receiver Kenny McKinley, who was found dead in his Colorado home Monday from what authorities think was a suicide.