Fairley perfect: Defense guides Auburn to national title
So much for all the fireworks.
Heisman trophy winning quarterback Cam Newton and the Auburn Tigers capped off a perfect season with a nail-biting, defensive struggle and 22-19 victory over the Oregon Ducks last night in the BCS championship.
Wes Byrum booted a 19-yard field goal as time expired after a couple of explosive runs by freshman running back Michael Dyer to thwart a late Oregon fight back and clinch the Tigers first national title since 1957.
Newton, investigated over recruiting violations which had threatened to destroy his college career, completed 20 of 34 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns but nearly saw his season end in disaster when he fumbled near midfield with less than five minutes to play.
Trailing 19-11, the Ducks quickly converted the turnover into a touchdown with LaMichael James scampering over to stun the top ranked Tigers. Oregon then added an unlikely two-point convert to deadlock the contest at 19-19 and set up a dramatic finish to the college football season.
Newton redeemed himself, marching the Tigers downfield to leave Byrum a short chip shot for the title.
"Everybody was just staying calm," said Newton. "We’ve been through this before and knew we had to execute the plays coach was calling."
After a scoreless first quarter the two offenses opened up in the second, the Tigers grabbing a 16-11 halftime lead with Newton tossing touchdown passes to Kodi Burns and Emory Blake.
The top-ranked Oregon offence that averaged over 49 points a game this season was held to just two touchdowns.
James, who finished third in the Heisman voting, caught an eight yard pass in the second quarter for the Ducks other score. Nick Fairley stole the spotlight for the first three quarters, blowing up plays in the backfield and forcing Ducks quarterback Darron Thomas into two early interceptions. Heisman candidate LaMichael James finished with just 49 yards — just the third time he’s been held to less than 100 all season.
The victory could be the crowning moment of Newton’s college career, the hulking quarterback almost certain to be an early first round pick if he decides to declare for this year’s NFL draft.
This season Newton ran for 20 touchdowns and was the nation’s top-rated passer throwing for 28 scores.