By Dennis Washington
GLENDALE, AZ (WBRC) - For two teams, each with a high-powered offense, the difference between winning and losing Monday night came down to one thing: defense.
"The matchup with our offensive line against their defensive line was really the changing point in that football game," said Oregon head coach Chip Kelly. "I will give Auburn credit. They got a great front four. Nick Fairley proved he was the best defensive lineman in the country. It was a tough matchup for us."
Auburn's defense successfully slowed one of the fastest, most intense offenses in the country. Oregon only rushed for 75 yards and managed only 23 first downs. On third down, Oregon only converted on five of its 15 opportunities.
Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas blamed that on mental mistakes on his part and not as much on the strength of the Auburn defense.
"They came out and did a good job," said Thomas. "We stopped ourselves on a lot of the plays, mental -- mental, just mental breakdowns on our own. They didn't really stop us a lot. We shot ourselves in the foot.
Their defensive line is really good," said Oregon running back LaMichael James. "You know, it is really tough to get around those guys. It really was a difficult matchup. Fairley really is a great player and so is No. 17. They just have great defenders in their front four."
Nick Fairley was named the defensive MVP of the game. The defensive lineman was responsibile for one of the two sacks on Thomas and had five tackles, three of which were for losses.
Fairley said the game was a chance to show America just how good Auburn's defense is.
"Man, our defense, we showed America everything we done each and every Saturday out there on the field. Man, we have been doing this, like I said, for 14 weeks. We just went unnoticed throughout the year. Now that we got noticed out here on the big stand, we just showed what we can do."
After the game, James and Fairley talked.
"It was nothing bad," James said. "It was all love. I was calling him a cheater because he kept grabbing my face mask."
"He really is a good guy," James added. "He was a competitor. I was up for the challenge. It was an overall battle between him and our offensive line and me. I told him no matter how hard you hit me I will always get up. I think it was one of those conversations."
"I just walked up to him (James,) told him he had a great season and don't get his head down," Fairley said. "We had a good talk after the awards, so we became kind of, you know what I'm saying, distant friends. Out there on the field we were talking mad junk."
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