It's official: the Auburn Tigers are champions of the college football world. Auburn won its first national championship since 1957, capping a magical season that saw quarterback Cam Newton win the Heisman Trophy among several other awards and accolades in his first year at Auburn.
Want an MVP of this game? Newton had a nice game, but the unquestioned player of the game was Auburn defensive lineman Nick Fairley, who was a disruptive force all night and made a few big plays in the Ducks backfield. If he decides to enter the NFL Draft, he left little doubt that he will be selected in the first round.
Auburn had success on the ground with Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb feeding off of the attention that was paid to Newton, and deservingly so. Oregon managed to get pressure on Newton, forcing him into throw-aways and keeping the Auburn offense guessing from where the pressure would come. Newton being Newton, though, he was able to make them pay on a few occasions to pick up first downs and move the ball.
Oregon was led by quarterback Darron Thomas, who passed for 363 yards and two touchdowns against the Auburn secondary, but was picked off two times in the game. LaMichael James, the nation's leading rusher entering the game, finished with 50 yards as the Auburn defense was able to hold him in check.
The Ducks offense made big plays here and there, but were a far cry from their usual explosive selves against Auburn. The same could be said for the Tigers, but it was most noticeable for Oregon, whose up-tempo pace seemed slower than to what we had become accustomed. All-in-all, neither offense was able to move the ball at will the way they seemed to on so many occasions this season, and this quickly turned into a game that was largely decided by the defenses.
What was supposed to be a high-scoring affair turned out to be just the opposite as both teams failed to score a point in the first quarter.
The second quarter was a different story, though. Oregon got things going less than a minute into the second quarter with a Rob Beard 26-yard field goal to go up three. Auburn responded with a touchdown as Newton hit Kodi Burns for a 35-yard touchdown, and Oregon reciprocated with a touchdown of their own as Thomas hit James for the eight-yard score. As has not been unusual this season, the Ducks went for two and converted. What was a scoreless game through one saw 18 points scored in just over four minutes.
Auburn managed a safety after Oregon took over on downs deep in their own territory and took advantage of the ensuing possession with another Newton touchdown pass, this time to Emory Blake. The score after one half of football was 16-11 with Auburn clearly carrying the momentum into the locker room.
The third quarter took a similar tone to the first quarter, as Auburn scored the only points in the quarter on a 28-yard Wes Byrum field goal on the first possession. Oregon's usually explosive offense struggled to start the second half, punting on the first possession, then failing to punch the ball into the end zone at the Auburn 1-yard line on their second and final possession of the quarter as the Tigers forced a turnover on downs.
The fourth quarter saw a couple of punts, first from Auburn then from Oregon. The Tigers then appeared content to eat away at the clock and avoid turning the ball over, but punted the ball with about six and a half minutes left in the contest. The Auburn defense stepped up on the next Ducks possession to give the offense the ball with a little over five minutes to go in the game.
What happened next caused the collective sinking of hearts into every stomach in Auburn, Alabama. The Tigers fumbled away the ball, giving the Ducks the ball back on the Auburn 40 yard line. A penalty pushed the ball back to the Oregon 45. The Ducks capitalized on the opportunity, marching the ball into the end zone on a two-yard pass from Thomas to James and hit the two-point conversion as Thomas found Jeff Maehl in the end zone. Tied game. What was a relatively slow game through about 57 and a half minutes suddenly became the nail biter we all expected.
On the ensuing Auburn possession, Dyer appeared to go down around the Auburn 45 yard line, but his knees didn't hit the ground and he got up to scamper to the Oregon 23 yard line amid frantic encouragement from his sideline, putting the Tigers offense in tremendous position to grab a dramatic victory. Dyer then got the Tigers to within the Ducks 1 yard line, and Auburn sent the field goal unit on with 10 seconds left in the game.
The Ducks called timeout, and Auburn sent Newton back on the field to attempt a sneak. The Oregon defense made the stop and the Tigers stopped the clock with only two seconds left. Byrum trotted back onto the field to attempt the game winning field goal. It's good!
Cue that patented Newton grin. What better way to end the 2010 college football season than with Newton showing off those pearly whites? - Danny Hobrock
Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.
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