Tigers Triumph: Auburn Defeats Oregon to Claim BCS Title

By Michael Preston
|  Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011  |  Updated 8:43 AM EDT
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Nick Fairley #90 of the Auburn Tigers celebrates the Tigers 22-19 victory against the Oregon Ducks during the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium.

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In the end, the BCS title game between Auburn and Oregon - a matchup featuring two of the nation's most prolific offenses, both with the ability to put up points in bunches - wasn't quite the track meet that everyone expected. But it did come down to two pairs of fleet feet: those of the Tigers' Heisman-winning quarterback Cam Newton and his backfield mate, Michael Dyer.

Newton threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns and used his scrambling ability to frustrate the Ducks defense while true freshman running back Dyer racked up 143 tough yards on the ground, including a 37 yard pickup on the game's final drive to deliver the No 1. Tigers their first title since 1957 with a 22-19 victory over the No. 2 Ducks.

Oregon had tied it at 19 with 2:33 left when Ducks quarterback Darron Thomas connected with Jeff Maehl on a tying 2-point conversion after Heisman finalist LaMichael James scored on a shovel pass.

Cam Newton and Auburn came right back with a 73-yard drive, with true freshman Dyer making the key plays. First he rolled over an Oregon tackler and, with most of the players thinking the play was over around midfield, scooted another 30 yards to the 23.

A play later, Dyer went through the middle for 16 to the 1.

After Newton was pushed back a yard, kicker Wes Byrum came on with 2 seconds left to seal the victory, giving the Southeastern Conference its fifth in a row.

Newton threw two touchdown passes in the second quarter and Nick Fairley and the Auburn defense made the biggest play in the third quarter at the University of Phoenix Stadium.

Auburn led 16-11 at halftime as the Tigers rolled up 258 yards in the second quarter and picked up right where they left off at the start of the third.

The Tigers drove into the red zone, but stalled and settled for Wes Byrum's 28-yard field goal to make it 19-11.

Oregon had its best chance to score on its second possession of the third quarter, using a faked punt in its own territory to keep the ball and a 43-yard pass from Darron Thomas to Lavasier Tuinei, who made a juggling catch, to get down to the Auburn 3.

The first Oregon run went backward, but the next two left Oregon at the 1 facing fourth down.

Thomas handed to Kenjon Barner, but he didn't get close to the goal line, with throng of Auburn defenders stacking him up for no gain.

Oregon started the scoring with a 26-yard field goal by Rob Beard on the second play of the second quarter, then Newton and the Tigers put together their first sustained drive to take the lead.

Newton gave a slight pump-fake to freeze a defender and hit Kodi Burns in the middle of the field. Burns, the former quarterback bumped to receiver when Newton arrived before this season, leaped into the end zone for a 35-yard score and a 7-3 lead with 12:00 left in the second quarter.

The Ducks struck right back. Backed up to his own 7, Thomas sailed a deep ball down the middle for Jeff Mahel, who went 81 yards to the Auburn 12. It was the longest play from scrimmage in the 13-year history of the BCS championship game and the Ducks' ninth play this season of more than 60 yards.

Three plays later, Thomas hooked up with LaMichael James, the nation's leading rusher, on a screen pass that worked to perfection for an 8-yard touchdown. Instead of kicking the extra point, Oregon faked it with holder Jackson Rice pitching to kicker Beard, who dived in for the 2-point conversion to make it 11-7.

The four-play, 93-yard drive took all of 57 seconds, typical for the fast-paced Ducks.

Auburn marched right back down, going 68 yards in 15 plays before facing fourth-and-goal at the 1.

Coach Gene Chizik went for it, stacking the backfield with potential blockers for his 250-pound quarterback. But Newton faked the run and floated a pass to running back Eric Smith, who was open in the end zone. The pass was a bit short and Smith let it slip through his arms to the turf as he slipped down.

What seemed like a momentum-changer for Oregon turned out just fine for Auburn.

After an illegal motion penalty on the Ducks moved the ball back inside the 1, defensive tackle Mike Blanc cut through the Oregon line and undercut James in the end zone for a safety to make it 11-9 with 3:25 left in the half.

The Tigers' offense likes to move fast, too, and it quickly drove 66 yards in six plays, with Newton hooking up with Emory Blake for a 30-yard scoring pass. That drive took 1:34 off the clock and made it 16-11.

The first quarter featured three turnovers, several big hits and three punts. Not exactly what was expected from two teams that combined to average 93 points and more than 1,000 yards per game.

Newton was intercepted by Oregon's Cliff Harris and sacked twice. Auburn's Demond Washington and Zac Etheridge each intercepted passes by Thomas.

Auburn was making its first appearance in the BCS title game and trying to become the fifth straight SEC team to win it in Chizik's second season as coach.

Oregon, the first Pac-10 team other than Southern California to play in the BCS title game, was looking for its first national championship. Auburn's won only one, in 1957.

The game turned out to be one of the most sought after tickets in recent sports history, with some going for as much as $7,000 on some of the online resale websites.

A snow storm across the Deep South, however, left at least a few Auburn fans who had planned to fly in the day of the game, unable to get out of Alabama.

Before the game, a moment of silence was held for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of the mass shooting in Tucson, about 125 miles south of Glendale.

Suggested Reading: MSNBC

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