In one of the great BCS Championship games in recent memory, the Auburn Tigers used a last-minute drive and field goal to edge Oregon, 22-19 at University of Phoenix Stadium Monday night. Wes Byrum’s short field goal sent the Auburn faithful into a frenzy as the clock expired and the Tigers won their first national title in 53 years. The finish was fitting for the Tigers, who have pulled out several games in the final minutes this season. Auburn had just watched Oregon tie the game in the final couple minutes before marching down the field — fueled by an amazing 37-yard run by freshman Michael Dyer.
FIVE IN A ROW FOR SEC
Auburn’s victory gives the SEC five straight BCS titles, and the Tigers are the fourth different team to win it. Florida has won two, Alabama one and LSU one over that stretch. The league is now 7-0 in BCS Championship games.
FAIRLEY DELIVERS AGAIN
Mobile’s Nick Fairley was the star of the game. The junior spent the game in the Oregon backfield, disrupting the Ducks’ running game. The Tigers defensive line held the Ducks to a season-low 75 yards and even got a safety in the second quarter that proved to be one of the biggest plays of the game. A fourth quarter goal line stand also was a key moment in the game. Fairley — and Cam Newton, too — will have a decision to make in the coming days. The deadline to enter the NFL draft is Friday. Look for both guys to leave school early and go pro. Fairley will probably be the number-2 pick and maybe even the top pick.
Outside the stadium it seemed like there were more Oregon fans, but once we got into University of Phoenix Stadium, it was clear there were more Auburn fans. I’d say Auburn had at least 60 percent of the seats, perhaps as much as two thirds, and they were loud. The Auburn nation showed up big time, and I estimate there were several thousand more Tiger fans outside the stadium without tickets.
Freshman Michael Dyer showed why he was one of the top two running backs coming out of high school last year. He rushed for 143 yards and nearly won the game with a 16-yard run to the half-yard line with 10 seconds to go. He certainly will be a big part of the offense next season, especially if Cam Newton does not return.
Chizik didn’t know Cam Newton’s condition Tuesday morning, but it was clear the Heisman winner was hurting after Monday night’s big win. He injured his back in the 4th quarter and was visibly hurting after the game. He didn’t participate in the trophy presentation on the field and left the postgame press conference early to get treatment. Chizik said they knew he was hurting, but said Cam is a tough kid and there was no way he was going to miss the final minutes of the game.
LOOKING TO 2011
Obviously, if the Tigers lose Newton and Fairley to the draft they’ll be losing not only their top two players, but arguably the best offensive player and best defensive player in the country. The Tigers will have a tough time filling those shoes next season, but Chizik said recruiting is going well. The Tigers are high on Barrett Trotter, who presumably would be the next quarterback on the plains. But he’s no Cam Newton.
The Tigers will have a lot of players to replace on defense and they’ll lose a majority of their offensive line, including center Ryan Pugh and tackle Lee Ziemba. So it could be a rebuilding year of sorts next year.