GLENDALE, Ariz. – For over a month it was talked about how great the Auburn Tigers and Oregon Ducks offenses were. So dissected and thought highly of that it would be fair to say many thought it would come down to the last offense with the ball.
Sure enough, the BCS Championship came down to the last team with the ball – not exactly the way it was expected though.
“We’re the best football team in the United States of Amercia,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik proclaimed after the Tigers’ 22-19 win.
To get that victory the Tigers needed a scoring drive late in the game to be led by their Heisman trophy quarterback, Cam Newton.
Oregon put Auburn in that position after they scored a touchdown and converted a two-point play to tie the game at 19 with 2:33 left in the game. Oregon scored their touchdown off a fumble by Newton on the Tigers 45.
The Auburn offense has been put in the position before, knew what they had to do, and executed their plan to perfection.
“It was business as usual,” Chizik said. “We have been there and done that so many times. And we knew what we would have to do to win the game. We knew we had to manage the clock right, number one. We knew we had to get some first downs.
“The idea was to take the ball down. We were going to move the ball down methodically and try to get it into position to kick the field foal with no time left on the clock. We’ve done it before, we’ve done it numerous times. That was the idea. I think our team’s been through this so many times that they understood what we had to do.”
And with those thoughts from the coach, off they went.
An eight-play 55-yard drive swallowed the clock up and Auburn kicker Wes Byrum put a 19-yard field goal through the uprights as time expired for the Tigers’ first National Championship since 1957.
A key play in the drive came when freshman running back Michael Dyer scampered 37 yards down to the 23. It appeared Dyer was going to go down some 30 yards back but instead he kept his balance on top of the tackler and escaped before being brought all the way down.
“I didn’t hear a whistle, not yet, so I was kind of looking [around] like what’s going on,” Dyer would say of the play. “But then I heard Darvin [Adams] ‘come on’ and the team’s going ‘let’s go.’ I was trying to run to get some extra yards to keep the ball in balance and get a first down.”
While Auburn’s offense saved the day and won the game, it was the defense that was the most impressive throughout the evening.
The prolific Oregon offense struggled most of the game — especially their running attack.
The Tigers held the Ducks to 75 yards rushing on 32 attempts — only 2.3 yards per carry.
Coming into the game the Ducks were averaging more than 300 yards — 6.11 yards per carry.
“The matchup with our offensive line against their defensive line was really the changing point in that football game,” Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. “They got a great front four. Nick Fairley proved he was the best defensive lineman in the country.”
LaMichael James was held to 49 yards — his lowest total of the season by 42 yards. He was never able to get anything going or get a rhythm. The defensive front built a big wall that gave him problems all night.
“Their defensive line is really good,” James said. “It is really tough to get around those guys. It really was a difficult matchup. They just have great defenders in their front four.”
Newton and the offense were getting all the publicity and hype coming into the game, the defense wanted to show that they were part of the reason the Tigers were in the championship game as well.
“Our defense, we showed America everything we [have] done each and every Saturday out there on the field,” defensive tackle Nick Fairley said. “We just went unnoticed throughout the year. Now that we got noticed out here on the big stage, we just showed what we can do.”
Fairley would have three tackles for loss on the night, including a sack.
Defensive leader Josh Bynes echoed Fairley’s thoughts on the defense not getting any attention throughout the season and especially leading up to the championship game.
“I told the defense before we got on the bus to come here, throughout the whole week of preparation and everything before this game, they hadn’t showed not one defensive highlight throughout the whole week,” Bynes said. “I say today we are going to be the best defense in the country and we are going to show up and we are going to win this game for us.”
The Tigers were put on the stage, showed up as an entire football team, and are able to walk away as the 2010 National Champions.
Coach Chizik knew what this team had in them.
“I’m not sure if 15 weeks ago anyone believed that we could do this except us.”