AUBURN, Ala. -- When quarterback Cameron Newton walked from the bus to the stadium surrounded by screaming fans before the start of Auburn's opening game, he felt he might have a good night.
"I went deaf for a second. I just loved it and I think it was a kickoff for us mentally to know it's time," the Tigers' new quarterback said.
Making his first start, Newton ran for 171 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 186 yards and three more scores to help No. 22 Auburn beat overmatched Arkansas State 52-26 on Saturday night.
Newton, a junior college transfer who started his career at Florida, brought the crowd to its feet late in the second quarter when he scored on a 71-yard touchdown run, dashing up the middle on a keeper. That made the score 35-16 at halftime.
The performance impressed both Auburn coach Gene Chizik and Arkansas State coach Steve Roberts.
"I don't know if I have seen an individual performance better than Cam Newton's. He is the best player I have ever seen live," Roberts said. "He made a huge difference in the ball game tonight -- he is hard to bring down."
Chizik said he was proud of his quarterback.
"He did some nice things when maybe something wasn't there. He turned some bad plays into good ones," Chizik said.
Newton was more critical of his performance than the coaches.
"I didn't play the best game I could have played, but I just have to watch film tomorrow and make good on my mistakes," he said.
"I just came out there and did what I can. I was just trying to get my feet wet and get a feel for the game," Carr said.
Auburn kept Arkansas State in it in the third quarter by fumbling twice in the first two minutes of the second half. The Red Wolves made it 35-23 after the first fumble on an 8-yard TD run by Derek Lawson.
Roberts said his Arkansas State team came out of the game with many things to work on.
"We need to finish some plays and drives. We need to put the ball in the end zone more than we did. I am pleased with the way we moved the ball," Roberts said.
Auburn played without linebacker Craig Stevens, the second-leading tackler for the Tigers last season. Chizik said Stevens was suspended for the game for disciplinary reasons, but he would not say what Stevens did wrong.
The Red Wolves took a 6-0 lead at 5:18 in the first quarter on a 10-yard pass from Ryan Aplin to Dwayne Frampton. The score was set up by a 61-yard completion down the sideline from Aplin to Allen Muse.
Then Newton got into gear, leading Auburn on a scoring drive that ended on a 3-yard scoring run by Kodi Burns, a former quarterback. The next time the Tigers got the ball, it took Newton just one play to find the end zone as he hit Mario Fannin with a 36-yard scoring pass.
Newton also scored on a 2-yard run and threw a 48-yard TD pass to Quindarius Carr.
The Red Wolves scored in the second quarter on a 13-yard run by Jermaine Robertson and a 26-yard field goal by Brian Davis.