AUBURN, Ala. — The game was easy for Cam Newton and No. 3 Auburn. If the Tigers' star quarterback faced any stress Saturday, it came after their 62-24 victory Saturday against Chattanooga.
Facing questions about an NCAA investigation into his recruitment, Newton insisted he has broken no rules.
"I haven't done anything wrong," Newton said. "I'm an Auburn athlete, and I'm still playing for Auburn. I love Auburn, and that's all I've got to say."
The Heisman Trophy contender received a warm reception from fans two days after allegations came out that a man tried to solicit payment from Mississippi State for Newton to play there.
With the off-the-field distractions as a backdrop, Newton and the Tigers (10-0) churned out 48 points and 484 yards in the first half against the Football Championship Subdivision Mocs (5-4), who have lost all 21 meetings.
Newton passed for a career-high 317 yards and four touchdowns and ran for a fifth, all in the first half. In fact, the scores came in the first 17 minutes, and he looked as if he was playing catch with his receivers at times against the overmatched Mocs. The Tigers racked up 628 yards on 54 plays.
The week hadn't been nearly so pleasant for Newton. The NCAA is reviewing his recruitment out of junior college. Former Mississippi State quarterback John Bond said he was approached by an ex-teammate — identified by ESPN.com as Kenny Rogers — who told him that "a specified payment would have to be made" for Newton to play for the Bulldogs.
Asked if he had ever met Rogers, he said: "Unfortunately, sir, I wish I could talk about it right now but I can't. That's how it goes."
Newton was also asked why he wasn't allowed to answer questions about the allegations.
"I'm not sure, sir. I wish I could," he said. "I don't think it's right for me to talk about it right now."
His coach, Gene Chizik, declined comment on when Auburn learned about the Mississippi State situation. The normally even-tempered Chizik bristled at the questions about Newton and whether perception of the player's character had taken a hit.
"Let me tell you something. This is a great kid," Chizik said. "I can speak intelligently on that one. This is a great kid. And you can go back and you can talk to elementary coaches, high school, this is a great kid and he's been a great kid at Auburn University every day he's been around me, this staff and his teammates.
"I don't know what's out there and I don't know what hits you're talking about, but I can assure you this: this is a phenomenal young man. Make no mistake about that."
He's a pretty good quarterback, took.
"He's probably the best player we'll ever see or play against at our level and that's why he's probably going to win the Heisman Trophy," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said.
Fans cheered Newton loudly as he ran back and forth across the student section three times after the game, high-fiving students.
He received a warm ovation when he was introduced before the game, too. He sported a grin going through Tiger Walk and then outstretched his arms as if flying as he ran onto the field with teammates about two hours before kickoff.
Tailgaters sported signs in his defense outside Jordan-Hare Stadium, like "Don't HATE on Cam" and "So what, he deserves to get paid." Newton said the support meant a lot to him.
"You feel it physically, emotionally and it does wonders in a person's mind and especially in my heart," he said.
He completed 15 of 21 passes and ran eight times for 24 yards, though he was sacked three times to end one late scoring threat before halftime.
Terrell Zachery had seven catches for 148 yards and Darvin Adams gained 106 yards on four receptions. Mario Fannin ran for a 42-yard touchdown and Mike Dyer scored on a 37-yarder.
The Tigers' 48 first-half points were one shy of the school record set 15 years ago in a 76-10 win over Chattanooga. Wes Byrum missed an extra-point attempt after the fourth TD of the opening quarter to end a streak of 102 in a row.
Auburn had eight plays of 20-plus yards in the half.
Newton's teammates had little to say about his situation, but said his demeanor hadn't changed in the previous couple of days.
"Cam is being Cam," Adams said, "and Cam is still going to be Cam."
Chattanooga racked up a few highlights. Brian Sutherland had a 98-yard kick return for a touchdown early in the second quarter.
Tennessee transfer B.J. Coleman completed 20 of 39 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown. Sutherland had 10 catches for 97 yards. Joel Bradford broke Alonzo Nix's single-season Chattanooga receiving record of 1,060 yards with a third-quarter catch.
"We were able to move the football up and down the field a little bit," Coleman said. "(Auburn's) going to have a chance to play for the national championship, which is what they've wanted for a long time. But we've just got to move on to the next one."
It was little more than a tuneup for Auburn, which finishes out the regular season against chief rivals Georgia and Alabama.
Asked if he felt differently this week, Newton shot back: "I feel 10-0. That's about it."
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