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(Monday, January 10th)
Final Score: (1) Auburn 22, (2) Oregon 19
Glendale, AZ (Sports Network) - Auburn won its second national championship on a last-second field goal, as Wes Byrum's 19-yard kick lifted Auburn over Oregon, 22-19, to end a memorable BCS National Championship Game.
The Tigers shut down the high-flying Ducks all night, but with Auburn trying to run out the clock holding a 19-11 lead, Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton fumbled in his own territory with under five minutes remaining to give Oregon one final shot.
A fourth-down conversion kept the sticks moving, and LaMichael James went in for a two-yard score off an inside shovel pass with 2:33 on the clock. The Ducks were successful on the two-point conversion, as Darron Thomas started right and, without looking at his receiver, threw back the other way to Jeff Maehl, who pulled down the pass with a defender on his back to tie things.
Auburn still had plenty of time to come away victorious in regulation, but instead of Newton carrying the load as he did all year, it was Michael Dyer coming up big on the final drive.
On the second snap of the march, the running back took a handoff and reached midfield while rolling over Ducks safety Eddie Pleasant. His knee never hit the ground, and with the defense standing flat-footed, Dyer alertly kept running and went 37 yards down to the Oregon 23-yard line.
Three plays later, Dyer took a draw 16 yards up the middle to the one, giving Bynum a chip shot for the game-winning points to give top-ranked Auburn (14-0) its first title since 1957.
Dyer ended with 143 yards on 22 carries, while Newton was 20-of-34 for 265 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, as Auburn became the fifth straight SEC team to win the BCS crown.
The Tigers' defense picked off Thomas twice, recorded a safety, held firm on a goal-line stand and limited college football's leading rusher, James, to 49 yards on 13 carries.
"These guys represent Auburn on the field, off the field and in the community the right way. We said we wanted to go from good to great, and I can sit here tonight saying the Auburn Tigers are the best football team in the United States," beamed Auburn head coach Gene Chizik of his players.
James had two touchdown catches, while Maehl brought down nine passes for 133 yards for the No. 2 Ducks (12-1), who were looking for their first title. Thomas ended with 363 yards on 27-of-40 throws with two TDs for the Pac-10 champions.
"This is a lesson for us. No one likes to lose, it really hurts," said the sophomore James. "This is probably going to hurt for awhile, but I think we're really going to be determined to go out next season and work harder."
The fans at University of Phoenix Stadium sat through a surprisingly scoreless first quarter.
Thomas' second pick of the opening frame came in the red zone after he was forced into a quick throw by Lombardi Award winner Nick Fairley, allowing Zac Etheridge to come away with the turnover at the Auburn 14-yard line.
Newton was sacked by Zac Clark to force a punt on the ensuing drive, and the Ducks quickly made their way down the field. Fairley, though, made another big play to keep them out of the end zone early in the second quarter. On 3rd- and-2 from the Auburn three, the imposing defensive tackle broke through the line and stopped Thomas for a six-yard loss, bringing out Rob Beard for a 26- yard field for the first points of the game.
Newton got going on the next touch, hitting 5-of-6 passes for 67 yards. On the eighth play of the drive, Kodi Burns was left open in the middle of the field at the Oregon 20, made one would-be tackler miss and leapt into the end zone between a pair of defenders for a 35-yard score at the 12-minute mark.
Oregon responded immediately, as Maehl got behind the secondary and hauled in a deep pass for an 81-yard gain down to the 12. On third down from the eight, Thomas faked a bootleg right and threw back to James on his left, and the Doak Walker Award winner walked into the end zone. The Ducks lined up for the extra point, but the holder and Beard faked it and executed an option left for the two-point conversion.
Auburn held the ball for the next seven-plus minutes but failed to score. On 4th-and-goal from the one, Newton bluffed a quarterback draw and threw to Eric Smith in the left flat. Smith was open, but the throw was low and went through the running back's hands and hit the ground.
An illegal motion penalty negated a positive yardage play that would have given Oregon some breathing room. On the next snap, James was hit a yard deep in the end zone by defensive lineman Mike Blanc and brought down for a safety for an 11-9 game with 3 1/2 minutes left.
The Tigers took over at their own 34 after the free kick and re-gained the lead when Newton found Emory Blake down the left sideline on an out-and-up pattern for a 30-yard touchdown.
It stayed 16-11 at the break after Newton's Hail Mary attempt from the Oregon 46 fell incomplete at the buzzer.
Philip Lutzenkirchen's 39-yard catch along the left sideline set up Byrum's 28-yard field goal 3 1/2 minutes into the second half for a 19-11 Auburn lead.
The Ducks then gained Auburn's 37, but a Fairley sack and a holding penalty brought out the punting unit.
Oregon forced a three-and-out -- thanks in part to Newton overthrowing Adams on what would have been a sure touchdown -- and used a fake punt to move into enemy territory. On the next play Lavasier Tuinei made a bobbling one-handed 43-yard catch to put the ball on the three, but Auburn held firm. Kenjon Barner, in the game while James had his injured hand looked at on the sideline, took an inside handoff on fourth down from the one and was stuffed at the line of scrimmage.
"This week everyone knew the eyes were on the Auburn defense to see how they would respond to Oregon's offense...Our defense did their homework and did their job," said Newton, who with a year of eligibility remaining did not comment to his future plans.
The Tigers' next drive spanned the third and fourth quarters, and they punted away with 13 1/2 minutes left.
Each team kicked away on their next touches, and with the game seemingly out of reach, Ducks linebacker Casey Matthews came from behind and stripped Newton with time winding down, causing a tense final five minutes.
"It looked like overtime was in the future, but the ball just didn't go our way," Maehl said. "Those things happen."
This was the fifth game of Auburn's season decided by three points or less...Oregon, which averaged a national-best 49.3 points coming in, won 11 of its 12 games by double digits...This was the first-ever meeting between the programs...Oregon fell to 1-2 in BCS bowl games, while Auburn improved to 2-0...Auburn is 15-2 in bowl games when scoring 20 or more points...Newton became the 14th player to win the Heisman Trophy and a national championship in the same season...James, who averaged 152.9 rushing yards per games, broke Jonathan Stewart's single-season rushing record of 1,722 yards set in 2007...The Tigers were successful on 9-of-17 third-down tries, while Oregon went 5-of-15...Auburn set a school record for wins. The Tigers went 13-0 in 2004...Dyer won offensive MVP, while Fairley, who had five tackles and three for a loss, took the defensive honor.
01/11 02:36:17 ET