Cam Newton and Auburn defeat Oregon, 22-19, to win BCS national championship
Tuesday, January 11, 2011; 3:05 AM
GLENDALE, ARIZ. - Nearly four minutes into a postgame news conference from which he had been notably absent, Auburn quarterback Cam Newton gingerly climbed three steps onto a dais on which his coach was answering a question regarding Newton's degree of greatness.
Newton had won the Heisman Trophy and led the Tigers to an undefeated regular season, but this night was more about what his teammates could give back to him. As Newton approached his seat - just left of center - defensive tackle Nick Fairley rose to pull out Newton's chair for him.
"Here you go," Fairley said.
Auburn would not have been in position Monday night to claim its first national championship in 53 years were it not for Newton's brilliant skill set, but the Tigers defeated Oregon, 22-19, in the Bowl Championship Series title game at University of Phoenix Stadium thanks in large part to the efforts of Fairley and the team's defense.
Oregon was one of three teams in the nation to average more than 300 rushing yards per game this season. On Monday night, the Ducks gained 75 yards on the ground. Oregon's all-America tailback, LaMichael James, tallied 49 yards on 13 carries.
Auburn's stoutness against the run all season largely had been overlooked in the run-up to Monday night's contest, but that was exactly what carried Auburn to its first national title since 1957.
"The matchup with our offensive line against their defensive line was really the changing point in that football game," Oregon Coach Chip Kelly said. "I'll give Auburn credit. They've got a great front four. Nick Fairley proved he was the best defensive lineman in the country, and it was just a tough matchup for us."
Kelly pulled out his share of trick plays, which kept Oregon in contention on a night when its high-octane offense sputtered. But Auburn's defense proved unflinching in the most crucial situations.
Late in the second quarter, Tigers defensive tackle Mike Blanc tackled James in the end zone for a safety to pull Auburn to within two points of the lead. On a fourth and goal from the one-yard line late in the third quarter, Tigers linebacker Josh Bynes stopped Oregon tailback Kenjon Barner for no gain.
"We had chances to make the plays to come out and win the game that we didn't make," Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas said.
The Ducks offense that averaged nearly 50 points per game and built a reputation for running opposing defenses ragged with its ceaseless, incendiary tempo struggled mightily to reach the end zone nearly the entire night.
"This week, everyone knew the eyes was on the Auburn defense to see how they would respond to Oregon's offense," Newton said. "Not taking anything away from Oregon, because we played an excellent team. But our defense did their homework, and they did the job."