TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Cam Newton took an improbable victory lap around Bryant-Denny Stadium, savoring his most audacious performance yet in this season of triumph and controversy: leading Auburn back from 24 points down against the defending national champs.
One more showing like that and it's Newton and the second-ranked Tigers who'll be getting a shot at the title.
Newton threw for three touchdowns and ran for another, keeping Auburn on track for a spot in the BCS championship game with a stunning 28-27 victory over No. 9 Alabama on Friday.
"That was a game that will certainly go down in history," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "It's hard to come back when you're down 24-0 against anybody."
Auburn (12-0, 8-0 Southeastern Conference) trailed 21-0 before it even picked up a first down, and Alabama (9-3, 5-3) had a 314-2 lead in total yards when things looked especially grim for the Tigers.
But Newton again rallied a team that has trailed in eight of its 12 games, leaving the crowd of more than 101,000 in disbelief. Well, except those orange-clad faithful crammed into one end of the stadium amid all the crimson, celebrating a win no one could have seen coming just a couple of hours earlier.
Newton threw scoring passes of 36 yards to Emory Blake, 70 yards to Terrell Zachery and, finally, a 7-yarder to Philip Lutzenkirchen with 11:55 remaining that gave Auburn its first lead of the day.
It held up, keeping the Tigers perfect heading to next week's SEC championship game against South Carolina. If Auburn wins that one, the reward will certainly be a berth in the national title game.
"That's the kind of team we have," Zachery said. "We never give up."
Newton also had a 1-yard TD run, and this may be the performance that locks up the Heisman Trophy — if allegations that his father sought a huge payout don't weigh too heavily on the voters' minds.
Certainly on the field, Newton has no peer.
"Cameron Newton is physically and mentally as tough as I've ever seen," Chizik said. "Period."
It's unlikely that anyone in the country could lead a team back from such a daunting deficit in Tuscaloosa, where Alabama had won 20 in a row. This was the greatest comeback ever against the Crimson Tide, no matter where the game was played.
Newton didn't do much on the ground, rushing for just 39 yards and enduring plenty of big hits in the backfield, including four sacks. But he's no slouch with his arm, either. He completed 13 of 20 for 216 yards, including a gutsy fourth-down throw to Darvin Adams that kept the winning drive alive near midfield.
Newton, who hasn't spoken to the media in 2½ weeks, kept up his silent treatment after the game. He even ran around the field with a hand over his mouth, but that was a gleeful gesture to show how he had hushed up all those Alabama fans. He clearly was hiding a big smile.
The momentous comeback wouldn't have been possible without some help from the Tide. Last year's Heisman winner, Mark Ingram, fumbled the ball away at the end of a long run just when it looked like Alabama was about to blow the Tigers all the way back to the Plains.
Another fumble, this one coughed up by quarterback Greg McElroy after a big hit by Nick Fairley — and recovered by Fairley — cost the Tide another scoring chance deep in Auburn territory near the end of the first half.
McElroy threw for a career-high 377 yards, but he wasn't able to finish. He left with a concussion after being body-slammed to the turf on a vicious sack by T'Sharvan Bell in the closing minutes.
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