AUBURN, Ala. -- The way this Auburn football team insists on living dangerously may be entertaining to watch, but it’s hard on the old ticker.
Josh Bynes ought to know. He’s lived it now for seven straight weeks.
“Yeah, it’s nerve-racking, because we know we can’t keep putting ourselves in this position,” said Bynes, the Tigers’ senior linebacker. “But there’s just something about this team. When we have to have it in the fourth quarter, somebody’s always there to make it happen.”
That somebody Saturday on defense was Bynes, who had interceptions on back-to-back possessions to send Arkansas packing for good in a 65-43 score-a-thon that marked the most points ever scored in a non-overtime SEC game.
Here’s something else it marked: The official Cam Newton for Heisman Trophy campaign.
If there’s anybody playing better football right now than Newton, he’s not on this planet.
“All I know is that I’m glad he’s on our team. I don’t know where we’d be without him,” said Auburn safety Zac Etheridge, who contributed to the No. 7-ranked Tigers’ 28-point blitzkrieg in the fourth quarter with a 47-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
Newton accounted for four touchdowns against the No. 12-ranked Hogs. He churned out 328 yards of total offense, including 188 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. He also threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Emory Blake.
For the season, Newton has now rushed for 170 yards or more in four different games and has accounted for 25 touchdowns -- 13 passing and 12 rushing.
To put those numbers into perspective, former Auburn quarterback Pat Sullivan holds the school record with 26 touchdowns -- and he did that during his Heisman Trophy-winning 1971 season.
“I don’t have the opportunity to watch everybody in America, but I can tell you this: Number 2 (Newton) is one spectacular football player … and I’m not one to go out on a limb,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “But everybody in the world sees it. It’s not like I’m telling anybody anything new.”
The 6-6, 250-pound Newton was magical in the open field, making Arkansas defenders miss, and showing the moves of a tailback. But when the Tigers needed him in the passing game, he also delivered and finished 10-of-14 for 140 yards.
“A guy that big isn’t supposed to be that shifty, but he is,” said Bynes, shaking his head in amazement.
For three quarters, Newton and the Auburn offense bailed out a defense that was shredded by Arkansas’ passing game. Most of the damage was done by Arkansas backup quarterback Tyler Wilson, who played brilliantly in relief of Ryan Mallett, who was knocked out of the game in the second quarter with a concussion.
Wilson hit 15 of his first 16 passes and finished with 332 passing yards and four touchdowns.
His 23-yard touchdown pass to Greg Childs less than a minute into the fourth quarter and ensuing two-point conversion pass to Childs gave the Hogs a 43-37 lead.
The Tigers were on their heels defensively and looked like they were in trouble.
“That’s the thing about this team that’s different than a lot of the ones I’ve been around,” said Trooper Taylor, Auburn’s assistant head coach and receivers coach. “When things go wrong or we start giving up some plays, you don’t get any of this, ‘Oh man, here we go again.’
“Instead, you have the offensive guys coming up to the defensive guys and vice versa and they’re telling each other, ‘I’ve got your back, or I’m going to make this play, or we’re going to get this stop.’ That’s the way it is with this team.
“We are truly one.”
The Tigers (7-0, 4-0) have also been the truth in the fourth quarter.
They’ve outscored their opponents this season 69-21 after the third quarter, which includes the overtime period against South Carolina.
And in their last two games against nationally ranked foes -- the other one being South Carolina -- they’ve forced seven turnovers in the fourth quarter.
“Our football team is resilient. Our defense is resilient,” Chizik said. “We know we didn’t play well all night, and there are probably numerous reasons why. We will see that tomorrow on film. But when it was the fourth quarter and we had to make plays, and when we had to get turnovers, we got three.”
That’s not a bad trait to have, even when you do give up 566 yards of total offense.
And having Newton at quarterback is the quintessential equalizer.
“We play as a team, and we play all four quarters,” Newton said. “There’s nobody pointing fingers on this team, and there’s no selfishness on this team. Whatever it takes to win, we’re going to do.”
Until somebody figures out a way to stop Newton, the Tigers are probably going to keep on winning.
Arkansas defensive end Jake Bequette summed it up best Saturday.
“You’ve got to give that guy a lot of credit,” Bequette said. “He’s a great player.
"He’s going to do that to a lot of people.”