Glendale, AZ — It was supposed to be one of the highest scoring shootouts in BCS Bowl Championship history — the over and under was 75. Auburn was a three-point favorite.
If you’re a betting man and you bet the over on the Tostitos BCS Championship game, you lost. But fans worldwide got their money’s worth after watching a terrific, hard-fought, well-played National Championship game Monday night between two great football teams.
The Auburn Tigers (14-0) are the BCS Champions of college football after beating Oregon 22-19 in a thrilling championship game. Undefeated Oregon, the highest scoring team in the nation, averaging 49 points and 537 yards per game, met their match in the SEC’s physical, undefeated Auburn Tigers led by Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton.
Newton’s father, the Rev. Cecil Newton, had been determined by the NCAA after their investigation to have violated the amateurism rule, claiming that he had offered his son’s services to Mississippi State last year for up to $180,000 in a pay-for-play scheme. The NCAA, however, never had evidence to prove or indicate that Cam or Auburn University knew about it.
So Cam was reinstated by the NCAA and allowed to play. You know how perception works; many believe what was never proven. The talented Cam Newton has had to play all year in the shadow of this NCAA determination.
Unfair? Wrong? Absolutely! Newton’s father was not permitted to be around the Auburn program or attend his son’s games. Newton became the ninth Heisman Trophy winner to play in a national title game. And play well he did.
He threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns in leading the Tigers to their first NCAA-BCS Championship since 1957. “I thank God every day for the ability to extend his word,” said Newton. “We won because when you believe, anything is possible.”
It’s the fifth straight year that the Southeastern Conference Champion has won the BCS title game. Alabama, Florida twice, and LSU are the others. Auburn joins 2010 BCS Champion Alabama as the first schools from the same state to win back-to-back championships in 70 years. Ironically, it also happened in basketball last year with Duke and North Carolina combining to win the last two NCAA basketball titles.
Auburn’s physical defensive front was led by All-American defensive tackle and Lombardi Trophy-winner Nick Fairley, who had five tackles for losses and a sack. He was named the outstanding defensive player of the game.
He and his defensive teammates combined to shut down the explosive Oregon running game led by LaMichael James, who scored twice and led the nation in rushing and scoring. But he was held in check with just 49 yards on 13 carries. Six times this year, Oregon rushed for over 300 yards in a game.
There were three goal-line stands in the game, as well as two two-point conversions and one safety. Oregon was able to trick Auburn’s defense several times, but they were not able to establish the running game. Oregon’s quarterback, Darien Thomas, had a big game, throwing for 363 yards, but he was sacked five times and intercepted twice.
Running back Michael Dyer’s incredible 37-yard run on the last Auburn drive, in which he was knocked down but not tackled, highlighted a great championship game for the fabulous freshman, who was named the game’s outstanding offensive player.
Dyer ran for a game-high 143 yards and set up Wes Bynum’s game-winning field goal of 19 yards, breaking the 19-19 tie with just two seconds left. The SEC is now 7-0 in BCS Championship games. The University of Phoenix Stadium is the home of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals. With 78,000 fans in attendance, tickets were going for as much as $4,500 during the week.
Auburn was also awarded the Associated Press National Championship, receiving 56 of 59 votes. Undefeated TCU, winner of the Rose Bowl, was second, and Oregon was third.
The game was also a battle of Under Armor sportswear vs. Nike; Auburn represented Under Armor, Oregon represented Nike.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, and on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm; he also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzger ald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.