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Auburn quarterback Cam Newton reminds many of Vince Young

Young led the Texas Longhorns to a BCS title over USC in 2006, and parallels have been drawn between him and the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner, who hopes to lead his Tigers past Oregon on Monday.

January 07, 2011|By Gary Klein
  • Auburn quarterback Cam Newton takes his turn at the podium during Media Day.
Auburn quarterback Cam Newton takes his turn at the podium during Media… (Christian Petersen / Getty…)

Reporting from Scottsdale, Ariz. — Five years later, the image remains indelible to Auburn quarterback Cam Newton -- and Oregon defenders.

On Jan. 4, 2006, Texas quarterback Vince Young torched USC and willed the Longhorns to a 41-38 victory in the Bowl Championship Series title game. The 6-foot-5 quarterback accounted for 467 yards rushing and passing and ran for three touchdowns, including the winning score with 19 seconds to play.

Newton said this week that he was "glued" to the TV when Young performed his feats on college football's biggest stage, adding that he still gets goose bumps watching clips on YouTube.

"My fingers are crossed and I'm praying a lot, just to hope that I can play like he played during that game," Newton said Friday.

Oregon, of course, is hoping he won't when the teams meet for the BCS championship Monday night at University of Phoenix Stadium. The 6-6 Heisman Trophy winner, the Ducks acknowledge, strikes an eerie resemblance to the former Longhorns star.

"He's just as dynamic as Vince Young, if not more," Ducks linebacker Spencer Paysinger said.

Casey Matthews, Oregon's middle linebacker, attended the Texas-USC game at the Rose Bowl with tickets courtesy of his brother Clay, a USC freshman at the time.

"There are a lot of parallels," Matthews said of comparisons between Young and Newton, citing third downs as the primary area of concern because of Newton's equally formidable talents as a runner and passer.

Auburn Coach Gene Chizik was Texas' co-defensive coordinator in the 2006 title game, so perhaps his most vivid memory is of the Longhorns' fourth-and-two stop of Trojans tailback LenDale White, which set the stage for Young's last-minute heroics.

If Auburn is behind but within striking distance at the end of Monday night's game, Chizik will turn to Newton.

"If I've got to put that ball in one guy's hands to win the game, that's where we go," he said.

Oregon players say they learned a lesson last season, when Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor consistently frustrated the Ducks in the Rose Bowl. The 6-6 Pryor accounted for 338 yards of offense, passing for two touchdowns.

Now comes Newton.

"Someone has to have their eyes on him at all times, whether it's a spy or someone at the line of scrimmage getting to the backfield," Paysinger said. "You know he's going to try and break for those long runs, so we just have to have four or five people around him at all times."

Newton, for his part, is hoping for a close game. But not too close.

Quick hits

Oregon on Thursday saw a screening of "The Fighter," the story of former boxing champion Micky Ward, a friend of Coach Chip Kelly who addressed the team this season. Former NFL coaches Jon Gruden and Tony Dungy, whose son Eric is a freshman receiver for the Ducks, also spoke to the team this season.. … Oregon cornerback Cliff Harris on what Kobe Bryant told a few players after they attended the Lakers-Phoenix Suns game this week: "He just said he's like a great white shark. He just swims on the surface slowly and eats every dude in front of him when he comes onto the court, and that stuck with me."

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