A University of Phoenix Stadium record attendance of more than 78,000 fans on Monday night watched the Auburn Tigers win the school’s first national football title since 1957. They defeated the Oregon Ducks in a surprisingly defensive battle, 22-19.
It was clear that the 30+ day lay-off had both offenses struggling to hit their strides.
Auburn held the Ducks to just 75 yards on the ground – 228 yards below their season average. Heisman third-place finisher LaMichael James carried 13 times for only 49 yards, although he did catch 4 passes for 39 yards and both Oregon touchdowns.
Kenjon Barner was also kept in check by the Auburn defensive front, managing 32 yards on 11 carries. He was also stopped at the one yard line on a 4th-and-goal by Tigers defensive tackle Nick Fairley.
Oregon was forced to use the passing game – something they haven’t had to rely on in any of their 12 regular season games. Darron Thomas completed 27 of 40 passes for 363 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. He also made an excellent toss to convert a 2-point conversion which tied the game at 19 with two and a half minutes to go.
Jeff Maehl added 9 catches for 133 yards, including an 81-yard reception – the only big play for a Ducks team known nationally for its ability to reel off huge gains in lightning-quick scoring drives.
But Auburn’s final drive was too much for the Ducks to handle. Taking over with 2:33 left in the final frame, the Tigers went to the ground, where freshman Michael Dyer answered the call.
Dyer pulled off a 37 yard run after it appeared he had been tackled for only a 5-yard gain. However, replay showed that Dyer was never down, and instead only rolled over Oregon safety Eddie Pleasant. The run put Auburn in the driver’s seat.
Then, with 10 seconds remaining, Dyer appeared to score a touchdown. Unfortunately for the Ducks, the play was reviewed and it was determined that the Auburn running back was down at the 1-yard line, meaning Auburn could run one more play before kicking a field goal while the clock expired.
Oregon head coach Chip Kelly called a timeout with :02 left in an attempt to ice Auburn kicker Wes Bynum. And with all of the college football nation watching, Bynum nailed the 19-yard field goal as the clock ran out, giving Auburn its first national title in 53 years.
The loss means Oregon is still without a national championship in football.
Dyer was named the player of the game, rushing 22 times for 143 yards.
Cliff Harris, one of the key’s to Oregon’s chances at winning the game, intercepted one pass but had only one punt return which went for only a single yard.
Fitting that the final game in one of the most bizarre college football seasons would see the two most potent offenses held to a total of just 41 points.
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