Auburn Claims BCS Championship

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Gene Chizik leads Auburn to its first title in 53 seasons.

Gene Chizik leads Auburn to its first title in 53 seasons.

The 2011 BCS National Championship didn’t feature the offensive fireworks many predicted, but certainly provided some late drama. After a late touchdown and two-point conversion by Oregon to tie the game at 19, Auburn’s Wes Byrum connected on a 19-yard field goal as time expired to give the Tigers their first national championship in 53 seasons.

Both offenses entered this game averaging over 40 points per game, but neither gained much traction in the first quarter. Instead of lighting up the scoreboard, it was a quarter filled with three turnovers and no points. However, two plays into the second, Oregon tallied the first score of the game, a 26-yard field goal by Rob Beard.
 
Oregon’s field goal seemed to wake up Auburn, as the Tigers took the next possession and scored on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton to receiver Kodi Burns. After Auburn’s score, the Ducks answered on the next drive, with LaMichael James scoring on an eight-yard pass from quarterback Darron Thomas, taking a 11-7 lead.
 
What happened after Oregon’s touchdown was one of the key turning points in the game. Auburn was stuffed on a fourth-and-goal on the 1, giving the ball to Oregon with a wave of momentum. LaMichael James was called for an illegal shift penalty, pushing the ball closer to the goal-line. After the penalty, James was stopped in the endzone for a safety, cutting Oregon’s lead to 11-9. The Tigers took the next possession and scored on a touchdown pass from Cam Newton to Emory Blake, pushing the lead to 16-11 at halftime.
 
Although the offensive pace picked up in the second half, the only points scored in the third quarter was a field goal by Byrum. The fourth quarter was quiet, until Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews stripped Cam Newton of the ball, giving the Ducks one last shot with five minutes to go.
 
After converting a key fourth-and-five, the Ducks punched it in four plays later on a pass from Darron Thomas to LaMichael James. Thomas had his ups and downs, but atoned for his mistakes with that touchdown toss and the tying two-point conversion to Jeff Maehl. However, the Ducks left Auburn with too much time on the clock.
 
The Tigers started the game-winning drive on the 25 and quickly moved into scoring position with a 15-yard pass to Emory Blake, followed by Michael Dyer’s 37-yard run. Dyer appeared to be down, but rolled off the Oregon defender and put the Tigers squarely in field goal range.
 
After Dyer’s run, the Tigers ran four more times, setting up the game-winning field by Byrum, sending Toomer’s Corner into a frenzy.
 
Much was made about the two offenses coming into this game, but the defenses clearly stepped up. The long layoff certainly helped with preparation and new wrinkles, but both teams came into this matchup knowing they would need to create opportunities for their offense. Each team forced two turnovers, but the Tiger defense made more timely plays on defense, including a 4th and 1 stop on the goal-line and forcing a field goal after stopping the Ducks inside of the 10-yard line early in the second quarter.
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The 2011 BCS National Championship didn’t feature the offensive fireworks many predicted, but certainly provided some late drama.

In order for Auburn to win, the defense had to find a way to slow down the Oregon rushing attack and keep the offense out of its normal up-tempo pace. The Tigers, led by tackle Nick Fairley, dominated the Ducks in the trenches and limited the Oregon rushing attack to 81 yards. The Ducks entered this contest averaging over 300 yards on the ground and the struggles on the ground prevented the offense from finding its normal up-tempo pace.

Winning the national championship is quite a chapter on a storybook season from Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. Newton took a long route to Auburn, transferring from Florida and spending a year at the junior college level. Despite off-the-field distractions about his father involved in a pay-for-play scheme, Newton never seemed to be affected, winning the Heisman Trophy and lifting his team to the national title. Although the off-the-field issues may hang around over Newton’s career, there’s no denying he was the key piece in the run to the national championship. The junior will likely enter the NFL Draft, closing the books on a short, but very successful career at Auburn.
 
Offensive Player of the Game: Michael Dyer, RB, Auburn – Although Cam Newton makes the offense go, the Tigers came alive when Dyer entered the game in the second quarter. The true freshman rushed for 143 yards, including a key 37-yard gain on the final drive to put the Tigers into field goal position.
 
Defensive Player of the Game: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn – Fairley certainly wasn’t the only defensive lineman making plays from Auburn, but he was the most dominant. Fairley made a key stop in the third quarter, preventing Oregon running back Kenjon Barner from scoring on 4th and 1.
 
News and Notes
 
Auburn’s victory was the SEC’s fifth straight national championship and the second consecutive title by a team from the SEC West. 
 
Oregon’s 19 points scored were its second-lowest output of this season. The Ducks lowest output came in a 15-13 win over California.
 
Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas threw for a season-high 363 yards against Auburn. Although Thomas passed for 363 yards, his two interceptions tied the most in a game by the sophomore quarterback this season.
 
Auburn outgained Oregon in total yards – 519 to 449.
 
Auburn quarterback Cam Newton completed a season-high 20 passes in Monday night’s win over Oregon.
 
Auburn coach Gene Chizik is 8-0 in bowl games as an assistant or head coach.
 
Quotes
 
“Nick Fairley proved he was the best defensive lineman in the country. It was a tough matchup for us.” – Oregon coach Chip Kelly
 
“They came up, had a good plan for us. They mixed it up a lot. Sometimes defensive end was crashing or sitting on it, but they came out with a good plan. Hats off to their defense.” – Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas
 
“When it comes down to the field goal at the last second, you can always point to a play here, a play there. But it really doesn't do much for you. We're a forward thinking operation, and we'll learn from this thing and move forward.” – Oregon coach Chip Kelly
 
“And this is the most unbelievable group of young men I have been around. I feel very blessed. God has blessed my life to be around a great administration, a great Auburn family. These guys represent Auburn on the field, off the field, in the community the right way. We said that we wanted to go from good to great. And I can sit here tonight and I can tell you that Auburn the Auburn Tigers are the best football team in the United States tonight.” – Auburn coach Gene Chizik
 
“Coach Chizik always challenged us on each level, you know, not only on the defense side of the ball and the offense side of the ball, offensive line, secondary. Throughout this season, everybody just responded and stepped up to the task. This week everyone knew the odds was on Auburn defense to see how they would respond to Oregon's offense. Not taking anything away from Oregon, because we played an excellent team. But our defense did their homework and, you know, they did the job.” – Auburn quarterback Cam Newton
 
“We really appreciate Cam throughout the things that he went through the whole season and things that were being said about him. He kept his head up and played great games. He kept us winning. He ran hard tonight. He came out there and he just played Auburn football. He is the Auburn man and we learned a lot. Tonight I kind of picked it up for him because I knew he was in pain and hurt and the frustration. But he still played. He didn't quit. He didn't have any reason. He don’t say "my back hurts so I couldn't do this or that." He just said "I'm going to suck it up and keep going," and he kept fighting for us. Our whole town and nation, we really appreciate what Cam Newton does for us.” – Auburn running back Michael Dyer
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