Former Aldine Mustang Darron Thomas did everything possible on the Oregon Ducks’ final offensive possession of the season to put his team in position to win a BCS national championship, but could only watch as the Auburn Tigers won the title game, 22-19, with a Wes Byrum field goal as time expired.
Relegated to ‘The Other Guy’ status thanks to the pregame–and in-game–hype surrounding Auburn’s Heisman-winning quarterback Cam Newton, Thomas rebounded from two early interceptions to finish with some gaudy statistics in a losing effort.
The redshirt sophomore outperformed his counterpart, completing 27 of 40 passes for 363 yards and two touchdowns. Thomas’ second touchdown pass, coupled with a pass completion for the ensuing two-point conversion, tied the game at 19-19 with 2:23 to go in the game.
That possession was set up by a forced fumble by linebacker Casey Matthews and, following a penalty, Oregon began the drive at their own 45 yard line, trailing 19-11.
Thomas began with a ten-yard completion to receiver Jeff Maehl for a first down. Following an imcomplete pass, Thomas ran the ball for five yards to the Auburn 40.
Then after another incomplete pass on third down, Thomas completed a critical pass to D.J. Davis on fourth-and-five for 29 yards that moved the ball to the Auburn 11 and keep the Ducks’ hopes alive.
The former Mustang then completed a seven-yard pass to tight end David Paulson to give the Oregon a second-and-three at the Auburn four yard line before an offsides penalty on the Tigers moved the ball to the two yard line.
After running back LaMichael James, from Liberty-Eylau, was stopped for no gain, Thomas found James cutting to the end zone with a shovel pass for the score to cut the deficit to 19-17.
Then, on the conversion attempt, Thomas rolled to his right before abruptly stopping and throwing back across his body and against the flow of the play to Maehl in the back of the end zone. Maehl made the catch to tie the game.
But Auburn would drive the ball down the field, aided by a 37-yard run by Michael Dyer that set up the Tigers at Oregon’s 23 yard line. On the play, Dyer was spun around by Oregon safety Eddie Pleasant and appeared to be down near midfield as he and the Duck defender went to the turf. But the play was never whistled dead and Dyer rolled over and continued running.
Replays seemed to indicate that Dyer’s knee never touched the turf on the play and that he rolled across the body of Pleasant while maintaining his balance with his left hand.
Five plays later, with three seconds remaining on the clock Byrum connected on a 19 yard field goal to deliver the win and BCS trophy to Auburn.
For Thomas, who graduated from Aldine after the 2007-2008 school year, the game would be a career-high passing performance. With his performance in the game, Thomas finished the season with 2,881 passing yards and 30 passing touchdowns, which was the second-highest single-season total in Oregon school history behind Akili Smith’s 32 passing TDs in 1998.
His total of 35 combined touchdowns (passing and rushing) was also the second-highest total in a season in school history, behind Smith’s 36 in 1998.
And even though the season is over, Thomas, who originally verbally committed to LSU before signing with the Ducks, may yet have an individual award in his future. He was named one of ten finalists for the Manning Award, presented by the Allstate Sugar Bowl to the top quarterback in college football, including bowl games.
The Manning Award will be announced Wednesday, January 19, in New Orleans.