Anyone know how to stop Cam Newton??? I think this is the question of the year for college football fans outside of Auburn. When I watch him, I think of Terell Pryor vs Oregon last year in the Rose Bowl...but better. I compare his clutch ability to Vince Young wearing the Mighty USC defense down in the 4th quarter and eventually strolling into the endzone to halt the dynasty. I think of watching Tim Tebow running over and away from defense after defense. I think of Michael Vick vs FSU, I think of Tommy Frazier running all over Florida...I could go on for quite some time remembering all the great players that Cameron Newton reminds me of and at the end of the day he might be better than all of them. If he wins against the Ducks on January 10, 2011 he will have to mentioned as one of the all time single season greats in college football history and arguably the greatest. He will need to beat Oregon or all of the talk will be forgotten and he will be remembered for his off the field problems, his controversial Heisman Trophy and not much more. He will eventually become an after thought in college football history.
Is he unstoppable?
What makes him seem unstoppable, oddly enough starts with understanding that he has made mistakes this year, and has had several throws that could have been intercepted, dropped. At times he has been obviously confused by defensive schemes on when or where to run and throw. This has happened many times in the 13 games Newton has played however no team has been able to stop him for an entire game. The reason could be because he gets significantly better as the game goes on and he plays better against tougher competition. He has improved as the competition has gotten tougher, the stakes higher, and the odds against him. The evidence is that he threw only one INT in November and December 4th and completed 68% of his passes during that time. He also completes 92% of his passes on 3rd down with 4-6yds to go. He has thrown only 1 interception vs teams with a winning record this season vs 5 INT's against teams with losing records. The same is true for Ranked teams (1 INT) vs Unranked teams (5 INT). His passer rating when Auburn is trailing by 1-7 pts is 180.25 going 34 of 44 with 5 TD's and 0 INT's. He is at his best in the 2nd and 4th quarter and when Auburn is either trailing or leading by 7pts or less. Oh and when his team was really against the wall in the Iron Bowl he was 6 of 10 for 167 yards, with 2 touchdowns and 0 INT's. He also had 2 completions over 25 yds and 4 over 15yds in that span when they were trailing big! His passer rating when they trailed big in Tuscaloosa was a cool handed 266.28. We remember great players for what they do in the clutch, late in the season or game, with everything on the line. If we judge Newton from this criteria then its easy to see why he is perceived as unstoppable!
So how do you stop him?
Nick Saban had a great game plan against Auburn, mix coverages, blitz occasionally, pressure Newton wtihout letting him break contain, and when you get to him wrap up and make the play. When the game started they got pressure on Newton time and time again. They tackled him when they had the chance, sacked him a few times, and whenever the slower defensive linemen got to him they broke down, opened their hips, and fired their feet like a disciplined open field tackler instead of charging & lunging at him like an ill tempered teenager in his first fist fight. The also kept contain and were able to finish the plays. The coverage schemes confused and frustrated Newton and it indeed was the right game plan to stop him.
Then it happened...
For about 28 minutes this worked to perfection for Alabama. They led 24-0, threatening to score when they dropped a sure touchdown, the next play Nick Fairley forces a fumble and recovers it, Auburn scores soon after to end the first half 24-7 and then wins the second half 21-3. Alabama did everything correct in the first 28 minutes, however they were not conditioned to play at that pace with the same intensity for 4 quarters. That is what Cam Newton did to Alabama. Its the same thing Oregon has done to virtually all of their opponents this year. Alabama came out with energy, adrenaline if you will, pumped up celebrating every play like they had just won the game. It was similar to what Oregon had done to Tennessee, Stanford, USC, and Oregon State. They let their opponents throw their best punches early while just feeling them out throwing jabs. They stayed in the fight, counter-punching and playing defense then saw the opponent getting tired and when the opportunity was there they pounced in with the knockout combo. That is Auburn & Cam Newton and that is the Oregon Ducks.
So what's the Secret Formula?
Remember the 1980 USA team beating the USSR in Ice Hockey??? I was only 3 years old when the actual game was played but I do remember the movie and it was conditioning, guts, and determination that led that team to victory. Huge Key was being CONDITIONED and believing you can stop any opponent regardless of who they are, dare I say "faceless".
The secret formula to stopping Cam Newton may not include kryptonite or a super complex NFL scheme game plan. Success against Newton is about having a good game plan but even more about having bullheaded determination and will to get up and get after him play after play after play for 60 minutes. No matter what happens early Oregon must know that they are in for a 60 minute battle! No matter if they sack him every down of the first three quarters, no matter if they have a 31-0 lead at half no matter what happens they have to know that its a 60 minute grind. Not 28 minutes, not 35 or 40 minutes, not 59 minutes but 60 minutes. The schematic blueprint is there and my gut feeling is Oregon knows winning this game is the same as the other 12 they have played this year. The competition is different but everything else is the same. The keys will not change for Oregon even though they will face their best competition all season, they must know to keep doing what they have all season and play a complete 60 minute football game.
Thanks for reading,