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Countdown to Kickoff: 86 Days

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We take you to the old Bluegrass State for the next entry on the list!

Todd J. Van Emst

Unlike yesterday, this story does have a happy ending — the happiest if you go all the way to the end of the season, but this entry denotes on the first times that I think Auburn fans saw that the 2010 team could be not just special, but very special.

The Tigers headed into Lexington, Kentucky with a 5-0 record, and they’d just come off of an easy win over ULM that followed two close victories over Palmetto State victims. Cam Newton had started to be mentioned as a Heisman contender after his performance against the Gamecocks, but he hadn’t gone on that midseason tear yet. It started at Commonwealth Stadium.

Auburn fell behind early when Randall Cobb scored from two yards out less than four minutes into the game, but Cam quickly got the offense into stride with two straight touchdown runs. On Auburn’s third scoring drive, he’d go to the air for what was most likely the play of the game.

Auburn would score about a minute later on Newton’s third rushing touchdown of the first half to take a 21-7 lead. Cam added a fourth touchdown later on in the quarter, and the Tigers held a 31-17 lead at the intermission.

Things got scary late, though, as Randall Cobb continued to dominate the Auburn defense and fuel the Wildcats on at home. Two Cobb touchdowns within four minutes of each other in the third quarter tied us up at 31 apiece, and the lead that seemed like it would never evaporate had suddenly done just that.

Early in the fourth quarter, Wes Byrum gave Auburn the advantage again with a short field goal, but Kentucky matched it with 7:31 to play in the game. Then came something that was incredibly rare from the Auburn offense under Gus Malzahn — a 19-play, 86-yard, 7-minute 31-second long drive.

After a near-disaster when Auburn tried to get tricky with the reverse on the kickoff return, the Tigers faced the prospect of starting a drive at their own 7-yard line. Here’s what Auburn did in sequence:

  • 1st and 10 at AUB 7
  • (7:15 - 4th) Cameron Newton rush for 4 yards to the Aub 11.
  • 2nd and 6 at AUB 11
  • (6:40 - 4th) Cameron Newton pass incomplete.
  • 3rd and 6 at AUB 11
  • (6:34 - 4th) Cameron Newton pass complete to Darvin Adams for 9 yards to the Aub 20 for a 1ST down.
  • 1st and 10 at AUB 20
  • (6:00 - 4th) Cameron Newton rush for 7 yards to the Aub 27.
  • 2nd and 3 at AUB 27
  • (5:29 - 4th) Cameron Newton rush for 3 yards to the Aub 30 for a 1ST down.
  • 1st and 10 at AUB 30
  • (5:00 - 4th) Terrell Zachery rush for no gain to the Aub 30.
  • 2nd and 10 at AUB 30
  • (4:43 - 4th) Cameron Newton pass complete to Darvin Adams for 11 yards to the Aub 41 for a 1ST down.
  • 1st and 10 at AUB 41
  • (4:30 - 4th) Michael Dyer rush for 11 yards to the Kent 48 for a 1ST down.
  • 1st and 10 at UK 48
  • (4:05 - 4th) Cameron Newton rush for 9 yards to the Kent 39.
  • 2nd and 1 at UK 39
  • (3:32 - 4th) Onterio McCalebb rush for 5 yards to the Kent 34 for a 1ST down.
  • 1st and 10 at UK 34
  • (3:02 - 4th) Michael Dyer rush for 4 yards to the Kent 30.
  • 2nd and 6 at UK 30
  • (2:20 - 4th) Cameron Newton rush for 3 yards to the Kent 27.
  • 3rd and 3 at UK 27
  • (1:44 - 4th) Cameron Newton rush for 4 yards to the Kent 23 for a 1ST down.
  • 1st and 10 at UK 23
  • (1:14 - 4th) Cameron Newton rush for 3 yards to the Kent 20.
  • 2nd and 7 at UK 20
  • (1:09 - 4th) Cameron Newton rush for 5 yards to the Kent 15.
  • 3rd and 2 at UK 15
  • (1:09 - 4th) Timeout KENTUCKY, clock 1:09.
  • 3rd and 2 at UK 15
  • (1:03 - 4th) Cameron Newton rush for 4 yards to the Kent 11 for a 1ST down.
  • 1st and 10 at UK 11
  • (1:02 - 4th) Timeout KENTUCKY, clock 1:02.
  • 1st and 10 at UK 11
  • (0:50 - 4th) Cameron Newton rush for 6 yards to the Kent 5.
  • 2nd and 4 at UK 5
  • (0:10 - 4th) Team rush for a loss of 2 yards to the Kent 7.
  • 3rd and 6 at UK 7
  • (0:02 - 4th) Timeout AUBURN, clock 0:02.
  • 3rd and 6 at UK 7
  • (0:00 - 4th) Wes Byrum 24 yard field goal GOOD.

You can see that the Tigers milked the clock to perfection, with Cam Newton converting a third-down through the air right off the bat, and then twice more with his legs later on in the drive. They made Kentucky’s use of its timeouts worthless, and totally controlled the line of scrimmage while calmly marching down the field for Byrum’s game-winner.

In that win, Cam Newton ran for 198 yards and four touchdowns, while throwing for 210 yards as well. Auburn racked up 521 yards of offense overall, and it could’ve been more if not for 87 yards in penalties that evening.

What we truly saw against the Wildcats was the realization of what Cam could do with his legs. It began against South Carolina, was cultivated in Lexington, and unleashed the next two weeks against Arkansas and LSU. Auburn also jumped Alabama in the polls after the weekend, since the Tide lost to Stephen Garcia (heh) in Columbia. Auburn would rise to #1 in the BCS rankings over the next two weeks after wins against top fifteen opponents in the Razorbacks and Bayou Bengals.

War Eagle!