National Champs Win With Total Team Effort

The Tigers used all phases of the game to produce a 22-19 victory over Oregon to bring home the national championship to Auburn.

Glendale, Ariz.--Auburn's first BCS Football Championship proved to a total team win as the offense, defense and special teams all played major roles in Auburn's 22-19 victory over Oregon on Monday night.

It was a special teams play that provided the winning margin as Auburn's all-time leading scorer, Wes Byrum, nailed a 19-yard field goal as time expired to give the Tigers the victory.

The offense, despite not putting up the points expected, managed to hold the football for 85 plays and rack up 519 yards.

It was the offense that moved 73 yards in seven plays on the winning drive after Oregon had tied the game with 2:33 left to play cashing in a fumble by Cameron Newton that allowed the Ducks to tie the game with a two-yard LaMichael James run followed by a two-point conversion pass from Darron Thomas to Jeff Maehl.

The defense did its job by holding Oregon to nearly four touchdowns under its regular season scoring average as the Tigers improved to 14-0 to win Auburn its first national football championship since 1957. Oregon dropped to 12-1.

"That last drive was unbelievable," said offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn. "We will remember those runs Mike (Michael Dyer) made and the way the offensive line blocked for a long time."

Defensive coordinator Ted Roof said, "We knew they were a very talented offensive team. It didn't matter how we did it. We just wanted to end up with one more point than they did.

"It wasn't a surprise to me that we played well," Roof said of the defense. "There was only one practice day when you said that isn't good. They were really on point, really focused, and that is a different thing when you have that long between games."

Senior center Ryan Pugh, who won praise from Malzahn for his great blocks that allowed Dyer to rush for 143 yards on 22 carries, said, "I just thank God for putting us in this position. I just thank everybody who gave us the support all season and our coaches who gave us such unbelievable support and wisdom. This feels so good. I am so proud of the Auburn family."

Senior linebacker Craig Stevens. "It feels great and I am so happy for all of the fans who came out to support us. We did it for the Auburn family.

"It feels great for the defense after all the talk about it being a 70-60 game," he added. "We didn't let that get to us and went out and played a good game."

After a scoreless first quarter the Ducks scored on a 26-yard field goal after Nick Fairley ended a drive by tackling QB Darron Thomas for a loss on a third-down keeper.

The Tigers got on the scoreboard with an 82-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter to take a 7-3 lead. Kodi Burns caught a pass over the middle and scored on a 35-yard play with 12:00 before halftime.

The lead didn't last long as Thomas hooked up with wide receiver Jeff Maehl for an 81-yard pass after the Ducks started on their own seven after excellent kickoff coverage by the Tigers on a reverse attempt.

Oregon took the lead on a third down and six call screen pass to LaMichael James. The Ducks made the score 11-7 with a run for two after lining up in formation to kick. The kicker, Beard, scored on a pitch play at left end. The touchdown came with 11:58 left in the second quarter.

The Tigers then kept the football for 16 plays after the kickoff, but couldn't come away with points--at least on the offensive possession.

On fourth down and 1 1/2 yards to go for a touchdown, Newton found Eric Smith uncovered in the flat, but the running back couldn't catch the underthrown pass and the Ducks held with 3:44 left to play before halftime.

Auburn's long drive wasn't in vain though. After a penalty on Oregon's first play, defensive lineman Mike Blanc shot through and grabbed James for a safety to make the score 11-9 in favor of the Ducks.

After the free kick by Oregon, the Tigers used the momentum from the safety to drive 66 yards in six plays in just 1:34.

Emory Blake scored on a 30-yard pass from Newton who dodged the blitz to find the uncovered receiver running down the sideline. The score put the Tigers up 16-11 with 3:44 in the period and ended the scoring in the first half.

Oregon drove into Auburn territory just before halftime, but Auburn's defense forced a punt to back the Tigers up near their goal line after Nosa Egaue sniffed out a screen pass and made a tackle for a two-yard loss.

Auburn not only got off their two-yard line, the Tigers got close enough for a Hail Mary pass play into the end zone by moving 52 yards in six plays. However, unlike the SEC Championship Game the pass fell incomplete.

At halftime the Tigers had 279 yards to 232 for the Ducks. Auburn had a slow start offensively, but out-gained Oregon 258-107 in the second quarter while running 36 plays to 11 for the Ducks. The Tigers had 18 first half first downs with 16 in the second quarter.

The Tigers gained 93 on the ground in 24 run plays and Newton hit 16-23 passes for 186 on with one touchdown and one interception.

The Ducks rushed for 38 yards on 16 carries and Thomas hit 15-19 passes for 194 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

The Tigers took the second half kickoff and moved 60 yards on nine plays before Byrum kicked a 29-yard field goal to make the score 19-11. The big play on the drive was a 39-yard pass to Philip Lutzenkirchen.

That was all of the scoring until the Ducks forced the fumble by Newton, who rushed for 64 yards on 22 carries and passed for 265 yards and two TDs as he hit 20-34 passes with one pick.

The Ducks drove 55 yards on eight plays to set up the dramatic finish.

The winning drive started with a swing pass to Emory Blake for 15 yards and then Dyer made a spectacular 37-yard run as he kept his balance as he was tackled and never hit the ground.

Three plays later on third and 14 at the Oregon 17, he raced to the goal line. The officials ruled he scored, but a replay overturned the touchdown call marking the ball at the one. Auburn ran one QB sneak to burn the clock and then Byrum kicked the field the winning field goal a play later.

Wes Byrum kicks the game winner.

"This is an unbelievable feeling," Byrum said. "This is a team thing. Everybody has been fighting hard all season. The offense and defense did a phenomenal job doing what they needed to do for this game. I just thank God I could be a part of it."

Commenting on the national title, Gene Chizik said, "I am not sure if 15 weeks ago anyone believed we could do this except us. 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 you that Auburn, the Auburn Tigers, are the best football team in the United States."

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