Newton’s 171 rushing yards on 15 carries against Arkansas State was a school record for a quarterback.
Head coach Gene Chizik said the quarterback had plenty of preseason expectations from fans and media and handled them well.
“He’s very competitive,” Chizik said. “He puts a high level of pressure on himself, good or bad or indifferent. That’s just kind of the way he is because he’s such a competitor. He expects a lot out of himself.”
In Newton’s debut game, he ran for two touchdowns, passed for three and accounted for 357 yards of total offense.
These stats earned the quarterback SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors. Newton said he knew he had a good game, but after talking with offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, knew he could do better.
“I missed key throws that I felt as if I could make on a regular day,” Newton said. “As far as it being a first game, I think I got a lot of jitters out. I’m just going to have to get more comfortable being the every-down quarterback relatively quickly.”
Newton’s 71-yard touchdown run was the longest run from scrimmage since Tristan Davis’s 75-yard sprint against Kentucky in 2005.
Newton said maturity is the biggest change he has made since backing up Tim Tebow at Florida.
“I was too young and naïve to notice it, but now that I look back on the things that I have done, I just laugh about it and am really somewhat embarrassed,” Newton said. “I had a good leader that I could look up to in Tim Tebow. I look at the things he did and try to do the same things he did.”
Looking ahead to tonight, Newton faces an opponent he is all too familiar with.
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Florida while Newton was at the school.
Newton said he has respect for Mullen, but can’t wait to play Mississippi State. Newton added telling Mullen he would be playing for Auburn was one of the hardest things he’s had to do.
“It was probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve made in my recent life,” Newton said. “I had to go through so many people to see what they think, whether my family or the closest people toward me. It felt best that my career would be played in Auburn.”
Chizik said even though Newton was highly recruited by Mississippi State, he feels it’s water under the bridge.
“Those things are in the past, and he has to go out and play football,” Chizik said. “We haven’t even talked about it. He’s focused on being a better teammate and a better football player and helping Auburn win.”
Tonight, when the stadium lights fire up in Starkville, Newton looks to improve upon his Auburn premiere with an offense in which he is confident.
“If you have a lot of guys around you that are set on what they’ve done in the past, you are really not going to get anywhere,” Newton said. “These guys here are hungry and eager to be great. Good to great, that’s our saying.”