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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pre-practice notes: First South Carolina game a turning point for Cam Newton

It was in Auburn's first matchup against South Carolina that the Tigers began to get an idea of just what Cam Newton was capable of.

The quarterback, who now a Heisman Trophy contender, accounted for 334 yards and five touchdowns, including his signature moment -- a 54-yard touchdown run up the sideline in the first quarter that he punctuated by leaping head first in the end zone the final 7 yards.

"In everyone's mind that we all thought, 'Wow, he's the real deal and this team is going to do something special this year,'" tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen said. "So that was kind of the turning point for our season."

Newton remained unavailable to the media Tuesday. The quarterback, whose father has been accused of having pay-for-play discussions during his son's recruitment to Mississippi State last year, last spoke with reporters on Nov. 9.

Lutzenkrichen said Newton continues to go about his business -- in his own way.

"Business as usual for Cam is just straight goofball," he said. "He's always joking around, always messing with everyone. That hasn't changed at all throughout this year throughout any of this. So it's just good to have regular ol' Cam."

Head coach Gene Chizik declined to answer a question about Newton's lack of media availability. He also refused to address a question about whether or not Auburn would abide by the SEC rule that mandates all players be available to the press following the conference championship game.

In an e-mail Tuesday, SEC spokesman Charles Bloom cited the rule that outlines the punishment for failing to adhere to the rule: "Failure to comply with these rules and regulations may subject the coach and/or the institution to a fine by the Commissioner."

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Here are some quick notes and quotes from early interviews today:
  • Lutzenkirchen has taken a lot of grief for his dance after catching the game-winning touchdown against Alabama. "Just one of those things where I was so excited I really didn't know what I was doing," he said. "I've heard Riverdance, jig, a bunch of different stuff."
  • LT Lee Ziemba added "leprechaun dance" to the list. "It was a pretty bad dance," Ziemba said. "Coach (Gus) Malzahn was saying: 'They'll be playing this touchdown to your grandchildren someday and then … oh wow, look at that.'"
  • Does Lutzenkirchen think it'll catch on? "I hope it doesn't," he said. "I really hope it doesn't. It's all fun and games."
  • I'm doing a Lutzenkirchen story today or tomorrow, so I'll have more in that, but the sophomore has 12 catches this year, five of which have gone for touchdowns. "It's just kind of coach Malzahn's offense where the fullback/tight end kind of is used as a blocker for most of the game and kind of slips out in the red zone and people forget about it and it just happens to be a touchdown catch," he said.
  • His thoughts on catching a wide open pass? "Don't drop it," he said. "Everything kind of slows down and you've really got to focus in and make sure you see the ball into your hands and pray that you don't drop it."
  • Lutzenkirchen on the team's goals every year: "At the beginning of the season, the first goal is to win the West. Well, the first goal is to beat Bama. The second goal is to win the West. And the third goal is to hopefully win the SEC championship if everything lines up. We're really trying to stay humble with it and knowing that this is the next game. It's the biggest game so far."
  • Alabama stuffed Newton on the run last week, holding him to 39 yards on 22 carries. Ziemba thinks the offense is to blame. "We weren't playing as well as we needed to be at some points in the first half," he said. "The game plan didn't change from the first half to the second half. Their game plan didn't change. Ours didn't either. It's a matter of executing and getting all 11 guys doing the same thing."
  • Auburn has started out slow in games (witness, its 24-0 hole against Alabama). LB Craig Stevens thinks that needs to change. "I think overall we have to go into games with more focus," he said. "Last week we kind of let our emotions take control of us to the point where sometimes we got out of line a little bit, out of whack a little bit. We just have to calm down and play our game, not wait for a team to get up on us.”
  • Stevens on South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore: "Oh yeah, he’s a good player. He kind of reminds me of (Alabama's Trent) Richardson with how hard he runs. He runs through a lot of tackles. It will be a tough task to slow him down. “You either hit him low or you've got to wrap him up when you tackle him. That’s one of those things, he’s not going to go down with just a shoulder. You gotta wrap him up. He has strong legs and he carries the ball forward. We’ve got to do a good job of rallying to the ball on him.”
  • Stevens said Lattimore doesn't do too much trash-talking on the field. That was before he had 1,114 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. "He can talk now," Stevens said.
  • Of all the games Auburn has played in this year, Stevens felt more fortunate to come away with a win in the Clemson game. "They were that close," he said. "That guy missed that field goal. That game right there, we took a deep breath after slipping by those guys."
  • The players have not been in this undefeated situation before. Chizik has, as part of the 2004 Auburn team that finished 13-0 and Texas' 2005 national championship team. "None of us have been in this situation before and he has a few times," Ziemba said. "He does a good job of making sure our focus is in the right, making sure we're not looking ahead to different things and we're focusing on the task at hand. He check us frequently each week. That really brings us to the place we're supposed to be."
  • Ziemba was asked about some fans not exactly embracing the Chizik hire two years ago. "I trust the guys who hired him," he said. "I wouldn't second guess them or anything."
  • Also of note: Auburn will show SEC championship game on high-definition video boards in Auburn Arena following women's basketball game against Temple. Admission free at halftime.


Johnny Smith said...

So, if Cam Newton isn't made available to the press after the SECCG, Auburn has to pay a fine. I wonder if it'll be as much as the fine Mississippi State will have to pay for ringing their cowbells during plays.

Seriously, they should do like they do in the presidential debates. Answer the questions you like openly and honestly, and if someone asks a question you don't like, spin it off into a prepared sound bite and then go to the next question.

Nancy said...

Johnny....good point about the post-game but don't forget you have a 20 year old college student vs a bunch of professional interrogators...not exactly an even match up. I've done newspaper work and in this case I don't blame Auburn and Cam for their position in this matter.

Andy Bitter said...

Cam is more skilled at handling a room full of reporters than any of the coaches. He could do it in his sleep.

Simmons B. Buntin said...

Hey Andy, are we talking about press before the game or after, or both? Either way I think Auburn follows the rule and Cam will be available. Like you said, he can work a room and so can capably defer the questions about the allegations.

Andy Bitter said...

It's a post-game policy.

MikeP said...

If the SEC wants him to talk, they have an opportunity to come out and say they've been investigating this garbage since January, they have found nothing and Cam has been and will continue to be eligible. That would be a good way to have him made available.

auflyer said...

Let him make a post game appearance and don't answer a single question that isn't related to playing the game of football.
I am entertained by the fact that the media feels quelled by Auburn's policy of "no comment". They are responsible for it.