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Tigers Are BCS National Champions

Jan. 10, 2011

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All-Access Video Celebration | Highlights | Trophy Presentation | Championship Game Review
All-Access Video Wes Byrum Interview | Craig Stevens Interview | Lee Ziemba Interview
All-Access Video Kodi Burns Interview | Terrell Zachary Interview | Philip Lutzenkirchen Interview
All-Access Video Emory Blake Interview

GLENDALE, Ariz.--- Senior Wes Byrum kicked the sixth and biggest game winning field goal of his career on the last play of the game from 19 yards to give No. 1 Auburn a 22-19 victory over Oregon in the BCS National Championship at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz, on Monday. It was Auburn's second national title in history and ninth comeback win in 14 games this season.

"It's hard for me to describe the feeling I have for the Auburn Family," said Auburn head coach Gene Chizik. "I look down here to my left, and I see three guys along with a locker room of 100 more who just defied all the odds. I am not sure 15 weeks ago anyone would believe that we could do this except us, and this is the most unbelievable group of young men I have been around.

"We said that we wanted to go from good to great, and I can sit here tonight and I can tell you the Auburn Tigers are the best football team in the United States."

After Oregon tied the score at 19 with a touchdown and two point conversion with 2:33 to go, the biggest drive in Auburn history began at its own 25 yard line. The next two Auburn plays were the game changers that helped decide the BCS National Championship.

Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton completed a 15 yard pass to Blake to the Auburn 40 on first down. On the next play, freshman Michael Dyer, who was named the Offensive Player of the Game after rushing for 143 yards on 22 carries, kept with it after lying on top of an Oregon player down field. Dyer was never ruled down and got back on his feet to complete a 37 yard run to the Oregon 23. The play was reviewed, and the call on the field was upheld.

Dyer gained four yards to the 19, and Newton rushed for 2 to the 17. Dyer followed with a huge 16 yard gain up the middle to the 1 with 10 seconds remaining. After being called a touchdown on the field, the play was reviewed, and the ball was placed on the 1.

"I was trying to make a play and keep my feet moving," said Dyer. "At the time I wasn't really sure. The whistle wasn't blown, and the coaches said go, and I wanted to continue to get the offense going. He (Darvin Adams) kept saying for me to `go go,' and I kept the play going to get some more yards."

Oregon scored a touchdown on a 2 yard shuffle pass from Darron Thomas to LaMichael James with 2:33 remaining making it 19-17 Auburn. The Ducks tied it with a Thomas to Maehl pass in the back of the end zone on the two point conversion to set up the heroics on Auburn's game-winning 7-play, 73-yard drive in the final 2:27.

The Tigers defense held the Ducks to their second lowest point total of the season by a large margin with Oregon defeating Oregon State 37-20 for its third lowest. The Ducks beat Cal 15-13 for its season low.

"I could not be more proud of our defense," said Chizik. "For one month, our defense was bound and determined to show up and play the best game of their life."

In a game billed as a battle of two high octane offenses, it was the defense by both teams in a scoreless first quarter that set the tone. Demond Washington intercepted an Oregon pass at the Duck 47, but two plays later Newton threw an interception that was returned to the Oregon 47. The Ducks drove deep into Auburn territory before Nick Fairley's pressure on Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas led to Zac Etheridge picking him off at the Auburn 15.

Both offenses came alive in the second quarter. After 21 total yards in the opening period, Auburn (14-0, 8-0 SEC), which has won 15 consecutive games, ran 36 plays for 258 yards in the second quarter. The Ducks ran 11 plays for 107 yards, but 81 of them came on one play.

Oregon (12-1, 9-0 Pac 10) scored on the second play of the second quarter on a 26 yard field goal by Rob Beard for the first points of the game. On Auburn's next possession, Newton threw a 35 yard touchdown pass that included a nifty run by Kodi Burns to give Auburn a 7-3 lead three minutes in. It was Burns' first touchdown pass of the season and the second of his career, and Newton's 50th score of the season.

Oregon responded after taking over at the Duck 7 as Thomas threw an 81 yard pass on first down to Jeff Meahl for the longest completion in BCS Championship game history. Oregon regained the lead at 11-7 on a Thomas' 8 yard pass to James only 1:02 after the Tigers scored and faked the extra point with a 2-point conversion run by kicker Rob Beard.

The Tigers used a 16-play, 68-yard time-consuming drive in 7:09 and had it fourth and goal from the 1, but Newton's pass to Eric Smith in the end zone was a tad low and fell incomplete. On first down, Mike Blanc tackled James, who finished third in the Heisman voting, in the end zone for a safety to draw the Tigers to within 11-9 with 3:26 left in the half.

After Oregon kicked off following the safety, Auburn quickly covered 66 yards in six plays, capped by a Newton to Emory Blake 30 yard touchdown pass to give the Tigers a 16-11 lead 1:47 before halftime.

On the opening drive of the second half, Wes Byrum kicked his first of two field goals on a 28 yarder to give Auburn a 19-11 lead. It was set up by Phillip Lutzenkirchen's career-long 39 yard reception from Newton to the Oregon 16.

On a successful 4th down and 8 fake, Oregon punter Jackson Rice threw an 11 yard pass to Marvin Johnson to the Auburn 46. On the next play, Thomas threw a 43 yard completion to Lavasier Tuinei to the Auburn 3. Demetruce McNeal made the huge touchdown saving tackle.

The Tigers held the Ducks for four plays, capped by a monumental stop on fourth and goal from the 1 as Mike McNeil and Nick Fairley hit Kenjon Barner just shy of the goal line with 2:26 left in the third. McNeil had a game-high and career-high 14 tackles, including 12 solo with a sack and three tackles for loss.

On huge 3rd and 12 run from the Auburn 19 with under 10 minutes to play, Newton rushed for his game-long of 18 yards to the 37. The Tigers converted another huge 3rd down and 4 conversion on the next set of downs on a Newton to Mario Fannin pass for 16 yards to the Oregon 41. Auburn wasn't successful on its third straight conversion try, this time from 11 yards, but the Tigers took 4:26 off the clock on the drive.

"Anything is possible," said Newton. "I guarantee you five or six months ago, nobody would have bet their last dollar to say that Auburn University is winning the National Championship. And now, on January 10, 2011, we're smiling right now."

On 3rd and 3 from the Oregon 34, Antoine Carter made a huge tackle for loss as the Ducks had to punt it back to Auburn. The Tigers took over at their own 29 with 5:05 remaining. Newton fumbled and Oregon's Cliff Harris recovered at the Auburn 40 with 4:54 left. A personal foul by Harris after the play gave Oregon the ball at its own 45.

Josh Bynes nearly picked off Thomas at the Auburn 45, but the Tigers defense held the Ducks on 3rd and 5 from the Tigers 40. Oregon went for it on 4th and 5, and Thomas threw a 29 yard pass to D.J. Davis to the Auburn 11 to set up the Ducks' game-tying touchdown and two-point conversion.

Dyer surpassed the 1,000 yard mark for the season with 1,093 yards. Fairley, the Defensive Player of the Game, had one sack to break the Auburn record for sacks in a season with 11.5 and increased his tackles for loss season record with with three in the game for a total of 24.

Auburn ran a season-high and BCS Championship Game record 85 plays in front of 78,603, the largest crowd in University of Phoenix Stadium history. The Tigers outgained the Ducks 519 yards to 449 as Newton was 20-of-34 for 265 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 64 yards on 22 carries.

The Tigers defense held James to 49 yards rushing while Thomas threw for 363 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions on 27-of-40 passing.Auburn was 9-of-17 on third down conversions while the Tigers held the Ducks to only 5-of-15.

Cam Do! Auburn wins BCS title 22-19 over Oregon

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- For a brief moment, Michael Dyer stopped running.

Hold on.

No whistle. No ref raising his hand.

So he started running again -- past the tackler who thought he had him down, deep into Oregon territory. A once-in-a-lifetime run, the kind that wins championships.

Dyer's stop-and-go maneuver set up a short field goal on the last play that sent No. 1 Auburn over the No. 2 Ducks 22-19 in the BCS title game Monday night.

"All I knew was the whistle wasn't blowing and my coach was saying 'Go!'" Dyer said.

With his 37-yard run, sure to be preserved in college football's highlight reel, the freshman running back did what most fans thought was impossible -- he upstaged his teammate, Heisman-winning quarterback Cam Newton.

Three plays later, Dyer ran 16 yards to push the ball to the 1 and set up Wes Byrum's 19-yard field goal with no time left. It was his sixth career game-winning field goal -- one that capped a perfect, 14-0 season, brought the title back to Auburn for the first time since 1957 and left the Southeastern Conference on top for the fifth straight year.

"Fifty-three years, baby!" coach Gene Chizik said to the cheering crowd. "This is for you. War Eagle!"

Auburn won The Associated Press national title as well, earning 56 of the 59 first-place votes. TCU was second and Oregon came in third.

One of the most memorable championship games in recent memory began with a moment of silence to remember something much more somber. The six victims of the weekend assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson were honored by having their names read, and a choir sang "God Bless America" while the crowd stood at attention.

A few hours later, it was standing for an entirely different reason.

Dyer was starring in a classic sequence that closed out a wild finish -- five crazy minutes of football that made up for the first 55, which were more of a bruising battle than the offensive masterpiece everyone had predicted.

The craziness began when Casey Matthews, son of the 1980s NFL linebacker Clay, knocked the ball from Newton's hands while he was trying to ice a 19-11 lead.

Oregon's offense, shut down by Nick Fairley & Co. most of the night, moved 45 yards over the next 2:17 and Darron Thomas threw a shovel pass to LaMichael James for a touchdown. Thomas hit Jeff Maehl for the tying 2-point conversion with 2:33 left.

And one last possession that will be remembered for one incredible play.

Dyer, who chose jersey No. 5 because that's how old his brother was when their father died in a car accident nearly two decades ago, 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 wasn't sure his knee hit the ground, so, urged by his coaches and teammates on the sideline, 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 had never touched the turf.

"Really, it was going through my mind to get the first down, hold onto the ball," Dyer said. "And the time being tackled, my knee wasn't down ... I didn't hear a whistle, not yet, so I was kind of, like, looking, like, what's going on?'"

In a statement released after the game, Big Ten referee Bill LeMonnier said he was confident of the call: "The ruling on the field was there was nothing other than the foot that touched the ground," he explained.

Eddie Pleasant, the Oregon defensive back who almost made the tackle, seemed shocked.

"It hurts, you know," he said. "It's not like he broke free and did some spectacular things. He was tackled. Everybody on the side of the defense stopped. He stopped and the coach told him to keep running and he ran. It's not like it was a blown assignment. It's not like he busted a 50-yard run down the middle. It was just a crazy play."

Dyer finished with 143 yards and was chosen Offensive Player of the Game, no small feat considering he had Newton playing well on the same offense.

Newton threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 64 yards, most in short, punishing bites. He wrenched his back and had to go to the trainer after the game. All in a night's work: "I'm OK. It was worth it," he said.

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

Wearing white jerseys with gray numbers, 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 only once all year managed two touchdowns. The last came on a simple shovel pass from Thomas, who finished with 363 yards -- 81 of which came on a long pass to Maehl that set up the first touchdown.

Oregon didn't come close to its nation-leading 49-point average and the fast-paced offense that turned most opponents into mush in the second half couldn't wear down Auburn.

The Ducks finished 12-1, three points shy of their first national title, but not making apologies for the effort they gave in the desert.

"When it comes down to a field goal at the last second, you can always point to play here, a play there, but it really doesn't do much for you," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. "We're a forward-thinking operation, and we'll learn from this thing and move forward."

Fairley, Auburn's 298-pound defensive tackle, had the Ducks moving backward much of the night. He lived up to his reputation as a game-changer for better, with three tackles for loss, including a sack -- and for worse, when he got a 15-yard penalty for shoving James' face into the turf after the whistle.

Newton was a game-changer, as always, helping Auburn to its ninth comeback win of this improbable season. He has now won the national title three straight years -- in 2008 as a backup to Tim Tebow at Florida, last year in junior college at Blinn and now with the Tigers.

If he goes pro -- as some people expect -- this will mark the end of a tumultuous stay at Auburn, shadowed by an NCAA investigation into his failed recruitment by Mississippi State. The governing body cleared him to play before the SEC championship but said his father, Cecil, solicited money from the Bulldogs.

"Anything is possible," Newton said. "I guarantee, five or six months ago, that no one would bet their last dollar that Auburn would win the national championship. And now we're standing here."

Standing with a crystal football, the biggest jewel in a bowl season that, at times, felt never-ending, beginning on Dec. 18 with the BYU-UTEP game and wrapping up in Arizona with a most improbable finish.

The SEC improved to 7-0 in BCS title games. Four different teams from the conference have won it in this latest five-year run.

LSU. Florida twice. Alabama.

And now, Auburn, the school that has loads of tradition -- the Tiger Walk, the War Eagle yell and a case full of Heisman and other big-time individual trophies -- but not nearly as many titles to go with it. Bad luck in the polls doomed their one-loss season in 1983, probation kept them from capitalizing on a perfect record in 1993 and the vagaries of the BCS left them on the outside in 2004, maybe the most painful of all the snubs.

So, really, this one is for all the Bos and Beasleys and Terrys and Tracys in the Auburn family who came close but couldn't close the deal. And it fashions a nice symmetry with that team up the road -- the Crimson Tide -- which took home the Heisman and the same championship trophy one short year ago.

Tide fans, of course, will remind you that it still has five more AP titles than the Tigers. But this celebration is going on at Toomer's Corner in Auburn, where the traditional toilet-papering of the drugstore and the rest of the street was going on in full force in the bitter cold as Monday night turned into Tuesday morning.

"Winning a championship for the Auburn family, I can't really describe it right now," Chizik said. "To try would probably cheapen it."

At Auburn, the words "War Eagle" would almost surely suffice.



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