GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Auburn snatched its second national championship title on the game's final play, kicking a field goal as time expired to defeat the Oregon Ducks 22-19.
Two of the most dynamic offenses in college football ran into determined defenses that held stars Cam Newton and LaMichael James in check. Instead, it was freshman running back Michael Dyer of Auburn who gave the Tigers the edge, rushing for 143 yards including two huge runs to set up the game-winning field goal.
The battle between strength and speed was won by Auburn, which rushed for 256 yards but held Oregon to only 76 yards rushing.
After trailing 16-11 at halftime and then 19-11 late in the fourth quarter, the Ducks engineered a thrilling drive to score a touchdown, and then converted the two-point try to tie the game with a little over two minutes left. But it was too much time to give the Auburn offense, and they drove the length of the field then kicked the winning field goal as time expired.
The Oregon Ducks scored first in their bid to win a national champion against Auburn, but only after a scoreless first quarter dominated by defense.
Despite all the publicity about Cam Newton and Oregon's speedy offense, the defenses dominated the opening quarter as Darron Thomas was intercepted twice by Auburn and Cam Newton was picked off once by the Ducks.
Busy second quarter
Early in the second quarter. Oregon scored to take a 3-0 lead, after Auburn lineman Nick Fairley sacked Darron Thomas on third down near the goal line.
Auburn struck back quickly with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton to Cody Burns to take a 7-3 lead.
The score came one play after a Cliff Harris near-interception was reviewed and ruled incomplete.
The Ducks came right back with an 81-yard bomb to Jeff Maehl, who was tackled at the 10. On third and goal, QB Darron Thomas went right, turned and dumped it left to LaMichael James, who walked into the end zone.
On the point-after, the Ducks surprised Auburn with an option play. The holder pitched to the kicker, who ran it in for two points.
Auburn marched impressively right back down the field, taking it all way to first and goal at the Oregon 3-yard-line. But the Duck defense stiffened, stopping Tiger runners on first and second down for small gains, then stuffing Cam Newton on third and goal from the one yard line. Auburn lined up quickly for a fourth and goal attempt, Oregon packed the line for a running play but Newton faked the hand-off and had a wide open receiver in the end zone, but short-armed the pass, which hit the grass for an incompletion and Auburn turned the ball over on downs.
However, the Ducks took over at their own two yard line. After a penalty pushed them back the one, LaMichael James was tackled in the end zone for a safety and two points for Auburn.
Auburn received the Oregon punt and marched right down the field and scored on a TD pass from Cam Newton to Emory Blake to retake the lead, 1-11.
Auburn received the second half kickoff and marched quickly downfield before the Oregon defense stiffened in the red zone, forcing the Tigers to settle for a 28-yard field goal, which extended their lead to 19-11.
Oregon's first drive of the secod half stalled at midfield, but the Ducks got the ball right back after forcing Auburn to go 3 and out.
The Ducks looked stopped on their next drive as well, but faked a punt on 4th down and converted the first down, then Darron Thomas completed a 43-yard pass to get the Ducks to the 3 yard line. Only a shoestring tackle prevented the play from being a touchdown. The Ducks seemed poised to score but the Auburn defense stuffed three straight runs, and on fourth down LaMichael James was tackled short of the end zone, leaving the score 19-11 after three quarters.
Neither team could sustain a scoring drive in the fourth quarter, as both teams moved the ball but traded punts. On Auburn's possessions, Cam Newton stood at the line before each snap, making sure to use as much of the clock as possible.
The Ducks had consistently poor field position as well. With 6:34 in the game, the got the ball back on their own 14 yard line but after one first down were again foced to punt.
Auburn had the ball wth 5 minutes left, when Casey Matthews forced Cam Newton to fumble, and Oregon recovered at the Auburn 30 yard line. But Matthews was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and that pushed the Ducks back to the Auburn 45 yard line. The Ducks then converted a fourth and five at the 40 all the way down to the 11 yard line.
From the 2 yard line, LaMichael James took the shovel pass in for the TD, then Darron Thomas showed great patience, waiting for Jeff Maehl to come open in theback of the end zone for the two-point conversion, tieing the game at 19-19 with just over 2 minutes to go.
It was too much time to give Cam Newton and the Auburn offense. In a bizarre play, true freshman Michael Dyer seemed to go down, but never touched his knee down and ran deep into Oregon territory. Then he carried again for what appeared to be the winning score, but this time the ruling on the field of touchdown was overruled, as Dyer's knee was down at the 1 yard line.
After a failed sneak by Newton, Auburn lined up for the game-winning field goal on the game's final play, winning the BCS Championship 22-19.
In a game trumpeted as a duel between the running of Cam Newton and LaMichael James, it was the freshman Michael Dyer who rushed for 143 yards on 22 carries, and single-handedly put his team in position for the game-winning field goal. Dyer was named the Offensive Player of the Game.
It was the second national championship for the Auburn Tigers, and the fifth BCS championship title for the SEC conference.