Many prognosticators were licking their chops over this year's BCS national championship game. High-flying Oregon, with its non-stop offense, versus Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton and a multi-faceted Auburn offense. It was going to be a wide-open affair.
Wes Byrum's 19-yard field goal with no time left Monday night propelled Auburn past Oregon, 22-19, and gave the Tigers their second national championship in football. It was a game where both teams had big plays, but couldn't find the end zone very often.
A key play in the game came in the third quarter when Oregon, facing a fourth-and-goal from the Auburn one-yard line, could not score on a run by Kenjon Barner. The Ducks managed over 400 yards of total offense, but most of that was through the air. Heisman third-place finisher LaMichael James could only manage 49 yards on the ground as Auburn's defensive front overwhelmed Oregon's offensive line.
For Auburn, it was not a great night for Newton, thanks to the Ducks defense. Yes, the Tigers gained 519 yards of total offense, but the offensive star turned out to be freshman running back Michael Dyer, who rushed for 143 yards. That total included a huge play on the game-winning drive, one in which Dyer rolled over the top of an Oregon tackler, got up, and continued to run, resulting in a 37-yard gain.
Oregon did a decent job changing their defensive looks during the game, but got caught out of position on several occasions. For the Tigers, All-American defensive tackle Nick Fairley caused havoc for Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas, the Ducks offensive triggerman. Auburn kept James bottled up, allowing Thomas to try and beat them through the air.
It almost worked.