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Auburn Tigers defeat Oregon Ducks for national championship

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Wes Byrum kicked a 19-yard field goal as time expired and No. 1 Auburn beat No. 2 Oregon 22-19 to win the BCS national championship Monday night.

Oregon had tied it at 19 with 2:33 left when Darron Thomas passed to Jeff Maehl on a tying two-point conversion after LaMichael James scored on a shovel pass. That was set up when Auburn quarterback Cam Newton fumbled.

Newton, the Heisman Trophy winner, and Auburn came right back with a 73-yard drive, with freshman Michael Dyer making the key plays. First he rolled over Oregon's Eddie Pleasant as he attempted to make the tackle. But Dyer's knee never hit the ground and he held himself up with his hand, not his forearm. With most of the players thinking the play was over around midfield, Dyer ran another 32 yards to the Oregon 23.

Three plays later, Dyer went through the middle for 16 to the 1.

After Newton was pushed back a yard on the next play, Byrum came on with two seconds left to kick the winner and give Auburn its first national championship since 1957 and the SEC's fifth in a row (two by Florida, one each for LSU and Alabama).

Back in Auburn, toilet paper flew high and late into the night as fans celebrated in their traditional way by rolling trees at Toomers Corner, located at an intersection just off campus.

"It's great to be an Auburn Tiger!" thousands of fans cheered in the street.

The win gives the state of Alabama a unique claim with back-to-back BCS championships and Heisman trophies. Auburn and Newton won this season, while Alabama and Mark Ingram won last season.

"I couldn't be more blessed,'' Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "Our defense was outstanding. I couldn't be more proud of everybody. War Eagle!''

Newton said of starting the final drive with the score tied: "Everybody was just staying calm. We've been through that before.''

A classic sequence to close out a wild finish — five crazy minutes of football that made up for the first 55, which were a bruising battle.

The craziness began when Casey Matthews, son of the former NFL linebacker Clay Matthews, knocked the ball from Newton's hands while he was trying to ice a 19-11 lead.

Oregon's offense, shut down by defensive tackle Nick Fairley and company most of the night, moved 45 yards over the next 2:17 and Thomas threw a shovel pass to James for the TD. Thomas hit Maehl for the tying conversion with 2:33 left and the game was down to one possession.

That possession will be remembered for one incredible play.

Dyer took the handoff from Newton and ran off right tackle for what looked like a 6- or 7-yard gain. Nothing routine about this one, though. He never heard a whistle, wasn't sure his knee hit the ground, so he popped up and kept going. Almost everyone on the field had stopped playing, but the referee never blew the play dead. Dyer made it to the Oregon 23. An official's review ensued and the replay showed that, indeed, his knee never touched the turf.

"I was going out there, trying to make a play. I just kept my feet moving," he said.

The freshman finished with 143 yards and was named offensive player of the game — no small feat considering he had Newton, who threw for 265 yards and two TDs and ran for 64 yards, most in short, punishing bites.

It was a good performance, but not spectacular — par for the course in a game that was projected as a possible 60-55 shootout by South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier and a 74-point touchdown-fest by oddsmakers.

Wearing white jerseys, green pants and DayGlo shoes and socks, the Ducks got only 49 yards rushing from James. An offense that had been held under 37 points once all year managed just two touchdowns. The last one came on a shovel pass from Thomas, who finished with 363 yards — 81 on a long pass to Maehl that set up the first TD.

Oregon coach Chip Kelly was asked what he told his team: "Same thing I told them the first game I ever coached them, that one game doesn't define you as a person or a program, and we lost a game to a really good football team tonight. … It was a heck of a football game."

Auburn Tigers defeat Oregon Ducks for national championship 01/11/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 7:57am]
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