Chizik defends Newton after Mocs couldn’t
By ANDY BITTER
AUBURN, Ala. — Unable to comment specifically about the recruiting controversy that has ensnared his quarterback’s name, Auburn coach Gene Chizik allowed himself to be more open when a question was asked about a potential hit to Cam Newton’s reputation.
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“Let me tell you something: This is a great kid,” Chizik said, his voice rising. “I can speak intelligently on that one.
“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.”
Newton finished with 341 total yards and five touchdowns in one half of No. 2 Auburn’s 62-24 dismantling of Chattanooga at Jordan-Hare Stadium, moving the Tigers to 10-0 for the fourth time in school history.
The win, coupled with Alabama’s loss at LSU, means Auburn needs to beat only Georgia or Alabama to clinch its first berth in the SEC championship game since 2004.
It was of little interest after the game Saturday. Questions quickly centered on allegations that went public Thursday that a man claiming to represent Newton’s family asked Mississippi State for $180,000 to secure the quarterback’s signature on a letter of intent during his recruitment last year.
The man, identified by ESPN.com as former Mississippi State player Kenny Rogers, denied any wrongdoing Friday. Rogers works for a company that matches recruits with schools.
Newton apologized for not being able to comment about the allegations Saturday but reiterated that he did nothing wrong.
“I love Auburn. That’s all I’ve got to say,” he said. “God is blessing me right now. When God be blessin’, the devil be messin’.”
Newton was asked whether he feels different after what has happened the past 48 hours.
“I feel 10-0,” he said, drawing laughs from reporters.
Auburn has continued to try to clear its name in the matter. Friday night, the Associated Press, citing an anonymous source in Auburn’s compliance office, reported the school has reviewed personal and church bank records of Newton’s dad, Cecil, in addition to phone and e-mail records of the Tigers’ football staff.
The source is “extremely confident there was no wrongdoing” on Auburn’s part.
Chizik said he addressed the matter in a team meeting but declined to disclose what he said.
Asked whether the program’s perception has been changed, Chizik said, “It hasn’t in terms of the way I see it and the way our players see it and certainly not the way our fans see it.”
Newton didn’t let the accusations affect his public mood. The junior was his normal boisterous self Saturday, smiling and interacting with fans.
His play didn’t suffer either. Newton threw for a career-high 317 yards and four touchdowns as the Tigers built a 47-14 halftime lead against the Mocs (5-4), a team from the Football Championship Subdivision. He didn’t take a snap in the second half.
Newton, who increased his SEC-leading rushing total to 1,146 yards, completed 15 of 21 passes, enjoying an afternoon as a more traditional quarterback.
“I am a quarterback,” he said. “That’s what I’m supposed to do. That’s in my job description.”
The Tigers finished with 628 yards of offense, getting 303 on the ground and 325 in the air.
“It’s good,” offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said. “We’re going to need to be able to throw and run the football here down the stretch.”
Newton has 19 passing touchdowns and 15 rushing touchdowns this year, getting closer to the 20/20 club. Florida’s Tim Tebow became the first player in NCAA history to accomplish the feat during his 2007 Heisman Trophy season.
The allegations about Newton are sure to persist until the NCAA issues its ruling, but Chizik said the Tigers haven’t taken an us-against-the-world mentality.
“That’s not how we live our life; that’s not who we are,” he said. “Whatever is out there is out there. We’re going to stay focused, and we’re going to do what we are supposed to do to be a better football team. That’s all that matters.”