By Dennis Washington
GLENDALE, AZ (WBRC) - The Auburn Tigers, led by Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton and a determined defense, overpowered the Oregon Ducks to become the champions of college football, its first football championship in more than 50 years.
Auburn (14-0) defeated Oregon (12-1) by a score of 22-19 Monday night in the BCS Championship game in Glendale, Arizona, before a record crowd dominated by Auburn fans.
Newton, considered to be one of the best quarterbacks in college football history, threw for more than 250 yards and two touchdowns. He was backed up by an Auburn defense led by Nick Fairley which held Oregon's offense to only 11 points in the first half, sacked quarterback Darron Thomas twice, and stopped Oregon from scoring twice in the red zone.
Auburn scored 16 points in the second quarter, including a 35-yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton to Kodi Burns and a 30-yard touchdown pass from Newton to Emory Blake.
Auburn running back Michael Dyer was named the offensive MVP. Dyer ran 22 times for 143 yards, including a 37-yard run late in the game that set up the game-winning field goal.
The defensive MVP was Auburn's Nick Fairley, who was responsible for one of the two sacks on Thomas and had five tackles, three for losses.
The victory marks Auburn's second college football championship in team history, the first since 1957. The victory also marks the fifth straight victory for a Southeastern Conference team in the BCS championship game.
The first quarter was scoreless. Oregon won the toss and elected to receive the opening kick, putting Auburn on defense to begin the game.
On their first drives, neither Oregon nor Auburn were able to get a first down and traded punts. On Oregon's second drive, Auburn cornerback Demond Washington intercepted a pass at the Oregon 47 yard line. Then, two plays later, Oregon safety James Scales intercepted Cam Newton's pass, running it back to the Oregon 47 yard line.
Oregon then drove the ball inside the 20 until Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas was intercepted by Auburn safety Zac Etheridge on the Oregon 14 yard line. Auburn, though, was unable to move the ball and was forced to punt after three plays.
A total of three interceptions were thrown between both teams in the first quarter, including one by Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. It was the first time this season Cam Newton had thrown an interception in the first quarter.
Neither team scored in the first quarter, but both teams made up for it in the second quarter, scoring a total of 27 points between the two teams before halftime.
Oregon kicked a field goal to begin the second quarter. Auburn then got the ball and drove the field, ending the drive with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton to Kodi Burns with 12:00 to go in the second quarter.
Oregon then took the ball on its own seven yard line and quickly drove down the field. Quarterback Darron Thomas threw an 81-yard pass to Jeff Maehl which set up an eight-yard touchdown pass from Thomas to LaMichael James with 10:58 to go in the second quarter. The Ducks converted a two-point conversion by Rob Beard to make the score 11-7.
The 81-yard pass play was the longest pass play in a BCS Championship game, breaking the previous record of 79 yards set by Tee Martin and Peerless Price in the 1999 title game.
Auburn then drove the ball 68 yards to the Oregon 1 yard line, but failed to score and turned the ball over on downs with 3:44 left before halftime.
Oregon then took over the ball but Oregon running back LaMichael James was tackled in the endzone for a safety, making the score 11-9.
Auburn then took the kickoff on its 34 yard line and drove 66 yards, ending the drive with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton to Emory Blake with 1:47 remaining in the second quarter.
Auburn led 16-11 at halftime, continuing a BCS tradition. In the previous 11 BCS title games, the team leading at halftime went on to win the game.
The third quarter was fairly quiet. Auburn kicked a 42-yard field goal with 11:30 on the clock in the third quarter. Oregon then drove the ball down the field, but turned the ball over on downs at the Auburn 1 yard line.
Neither team scored again until late in the fourth quarter, when Oregon drove 55 yards, ending the drive with a two-yard touchdown pass from Thomas to James. The two-point conversion was also successful, tying the game at 19-19.
Then, Auburn got the ball on their 25-yard line with 2:27 left in the game and drove it 74 yards in five plays to the Oregon 1 yard line. With two seconds left in the game, Wes Byrum kicked a game-winning 19-yard field goal to put the Tigers ahead, 22-19.
The game ended 22-19.
Oregon had 23 first downs and Auburn had 28. Oregon had 73 plays on offense and gained a total of 449 yards, while Auburn ran 85 plays and had 519 yards in total offense.
Cam Newton completed 20 passes out of 34 attempts for 265 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He was sacked twice.
Darron Thomas completed 27 of his 40 passes for 363 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and no sacks.
An estimated 78,603 fans attended the game, a new stadium attendance record, and there were clearly more Auburn fans than Oregon fans in the stands. The east side of the stadium was a solid mix of orange and blue, while the west side of the stadium was mixed with Auburn fans and Oregon fans.
In addition, an estimated 20,000 people watched the game on a large, outdoor screen at nearby Westgate City Center.
Auburn fans cheered loudly during the pre-game festivities, when the Air Force Academy Cadet Chorale was accompanied by an in-stadium fly-around from Challenger, the only bald eagle in U.S. history trained to fly in stadiums during anthems.
Honorary captains for the game were former Auburn running back Bo Jackson and Ahmad Rashad of Oregon.
This was the first time these two schools had faced each other in a football game. This game also marked the first time a school from the SEC and a school from the Pac-10 had met in the national title game.
Auburn Team Notes
Auburn won its second NCAA Championship, and its first since 1957.
Auburn finished the season with a perfect 14-0 record, setting a school record for victories in a season. The Tigers went 13-0 in 2004.
Auburn finished with a perfect record for the seventh time. The Tigers also had perfect records in 1900, 1904, 1913, 1957, 1993 and 2004.
Auburn improved to 21-13-2 all-time in bowl games. Auburn's 21 bowl victories ranks tied for 12th most in NCAA history.
Auburn head coach Gene Chizik is now 8-0 all-time in bowl games as a head or assistant coach.
Auburn has now beaten seven teams that are currently ranked in the top 25 of the Associated Press poll and BCS standings.
Auburn won its sixth game this season against a team that was nationally ranked at the time of the game, marking the first time the Tigers have ever won six games against ranked teams in a single season.
Auburn won the first ever meeting between the two schools and now has a 6-3 record in games against current Pac-10 schools, including a 3-0 record in bowl games.
Auburn came from behind to win for the ninth time this season. The Tigers trailed 3-0 and 11-7 in the second quarter.
Auburn scored 22 points, pushing the Tigers' single-season school record to 577 points.
Auburn's offense ran a season high and BCS National Championship game record 85 plays.
Auburn totaled 519 yards of offense and had 254 yards rushing, extending the school single-season records in both of those categories.
The Tigers finished the season with 6,989 yards of total offense, including 3,987 yards rushing. Auburn's 254 yards rushing ranks 3rd all-time in the BCS National Championship game.
Auburn's 519 yards of offense marked the eighth time this season the Tigers have rolled up at least 500 yards of offense.
Auburn's 519 yards of offense was the 4th most in BCS National Championship history.
Auburn played its first scoreless first quarter (both teams) of the season. It marked just the third time this year that the Tigers did not score in the first quarter (Clemson, Alabama).
Oregon scored first on a 26-yard field goal. It marked the seventh time this season that Auburn's opponent scored first.
Auburn intercepted two passes in the first quarter, giving the Tigers two picks in both the SEC Championship Game and the BCS National Championship Game. The Tigers had only picked off two passes twice during the 12 game regular season, including none of the last five games.
Auburn led 16-11 at halftime. It marked the ninth game this season that the Tigers led at the break.
The Tigers led 19-11 after three quarters and have led after three periods in 11 of their 14 games.
Auburn's 28 first downs on offense ranks first all time in Auburn bowl history.
Cam Newton Notes
Cam Newton became the 14th player in NCAA history to win the Heisman Trophy and a national championship in the same season.
Newton became the third player in the BCS era to win the Heisman Trophy and the BCS National Championship. Heisman Trophy winners are now 4-7 in the BCS National Championship Game.
Newton accounted for 2 touchdowns (both passing), pushing his school record total to 51 touchdowns this season, which is second most in a season in SEC history.
Newton is one of just three players in NCAA FBS history to total 20 rushing and 20 passing touchdowns in a single season.
Newton completed 20-of-34 passes for 265 yards and 2 touchdown passes. He now has 30 TD passes this season, extending his own school single-season record.
His 2,854 yards passing is second most in a season in school history.
Newton was 0-of-1 on the opening drive. For the season, he is now 19-for-20 for 300 yards and three touchdowns on Auburn's opening drives this season.
Newton rushed for 64 yards on 22 carries, pushing his season total to 1,473 yards, which ranks third in Auburn history and extends his SEC record for yards rushing by a quarterback in a single season.
Newton ends the season having scored 21 touchdowns (20 rushing and one receiving), giving him 126 points scored this season, extending his Auburn single-season record for most points scored that ranks 6th in SEC history.
Newton had 329 yards of offense, pushing his season total to 4,327 yards, breaking the SEC single-season record for total offense formerly held by Tim Tebow (4,181 in 2007).
Newton now has 1,586 career rushing yards including his time at Florida, pushing him into the top 10 in career rushing yards by a quarterback in SEC history. Newton now ranks 10th in SEC history.
More Player Notes
OT Lee Ziemba extended his consecutive starts streak to 52 games, extending his own school records for starts and consecutive starts.
Michael Dyer rushed for 143 yards on 22 carries, giving him 1,093 rushing yards this season, extending his Auburn freshman rushing record.
Dyer's 143 yards rushing marked the fourth time he rushed for over 100 yards this season.
Dyer's 37-yard rush in the fourth quarter kept with it after lying on top of an Oregon player down field (apparently short of a first-down). Dyer was not ruled down and got back on his feet to complete a 37 yard run to the Oregon 23. The play was reviewed, and the call on the field was upheld.
Dyer's 143 yards rushing is the third-highest rushing total by an Auburn back and most ever by a Freshman in Auburn bowl history.
Dyer and Newton both finished the season with more than 1,000 yards rushing, marking just the second time in Auburn history that the Tigers had two 1,000-yard rushers in a single season. In 1979, James Brooks (1,208 yards) and Joe Cribbs (1,120) both eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing.
Darvin Adams had 4 catches for 48 yards, pushing his career totals to 115 career catches for 1,978 career yards, which both rank sixth in school history.
Nick Fairley had 3 tackles for loss including a quarterback sack, extending his school single-season record for tackles for loss to 24, and his sack gave him 11.5 this season, which is also a school record.
Wes Byrum scored 8 points, pushing his Auburn career-record total to 363 points, which ranks fifth in SEC history.
Byrum's 19-yard field-goal as time expired, was his sixth game-winning field goal of his career.
Onterio McCalebb rushed for 47 yards on 6 carries, finishing the season with 810 yards rushing on 95 carries. McCalebb's average of 8.53 yards per rush set a new Auburn single-season record, breaking the previous record of 8.44 by Tommy Lorino in 1956.
Demond Washington intercepted his second pass of the season and third of his career in the first quarter.
Zac Etheridge had his third interception of the season and fourth of his career to stop another drive in the first quarter.
Kodi Burns caught his first touchdown pass of the season and the second of his career, hauling in a 35-yard strike from Newton in the second quarter.
Mike Blanc collected a safety in the second quarter, marking the Tigers' first safety since Josh Bynes had one against Ball State in 2009.
Emory Blake's 30-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter was his eighth TD catch of the season, which is sixth most in a single season in school history.
Philip Lutzenkirchen's 39-yard catch in the third quarter was the longest reception of his career. His previous long was a 26-yard catch against ULM earlier this season.
Byrum's 28-yard field goal in the third quarter and his 19-yard field goal as time expired was the 59th and 60th field goals of his career, extending his school record.
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