2011 BCS National Championship
Auburn 22, Oregon 19
Stadium: University of Phoenix Stadium
Offensive Player of the Game: Michael Dyer, Auburn
Defensive Player of the Game: Nick Fairley, Auburn
Head Coaches: Chip Kelly, Oregon - Gene Chizik, Auburn
Top-ranked Auburn stars Cam Newton, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, and defensive tackle Nick Fairley, the Lombardi Trophy recipient, led the Tigers to a narrow, final-play victory over no. 2 Oregon in a clash of unbeatens in the Tostitos Bowl Championship Series (BCS) National Championship Game (BCS NCG) at University of Phoenix Stadium.
The two titans of college football in 2010, separated by only a whisker in the final BCS rankings (Auburn .9866, Oregon .9720) and statistics, met on the gridiron for the first time.
The Southeastern Conference’s Tigers and Pac-12 Conference Ducks arrived in Arizona armed with prodigious offenses. Oregon, spearheaded by all-America running back and Heisman Trophy finalist LaMichael James, the nation’s leading rusher for America’s top-scoring team, averaged 49.3 points and 537.5 total yards per game. Auburn’s offensive statistics were nearly as gaudy — 42.7 points and 497.7 total yards per outing. Collectively, their offenses covered nearly two and one-half miles of turf during the season yet only 20 yards separated them in total yardage — 6,470 (Auburn), 6,450 (Oregon).
However, the anticipated offensive shootout unexpectedly evolved into a low-scoring affair. Two teams that combined to score 92 points and gain 1,035 total yards per game during the season combined to muster only 41 points. The scoreless first quarter was a harbinger of things to come. Only three touchdowns were tallied and none by victorious Auburn in the second half.
Fairley led a staunch Auburn defensive unit that forced three turnovers and crafted a pivotal third-quarter goal-line stand. He finished with 5 tackles, including 3 behind the line of scrimmage, 1 quarterback sack and 1 forced fumble en route to the defensive player of the game award.
Auburn’s defense limited a Duck offense averaging 303.8 rushing yards per game to only 75 yards on the ground or nearly 229 below its average.
Forced to pass, Oregon set a BCS NCG record with 374 yards through the air. An 81-yard completion between quarterback Darron Thomas and wide receiver Jeff Maehl to the Auburn seven-yard line led to the Ducks’ only first-half touchdown, an eight-yard pass from Thomas to LaMichael James three plays later followed by Rob Beard’s two-point rush.
Auburn’s two first-half touchdowns were passes from quarterback Cam Newton to Kodi Burns (35 yards) and Emory Blake (30 yards).
The Tigers led 16–11 at halftime and 19–11 late in the fourth quarter.
Cue the dramatics!
Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews forced a fumble when he punched the ball out of Newton’s hands after a short gain, causing a fumble that Duck cornerback Cliff Harris recovered with 4:54 to play.
Thomas seized the moment and drove Oregon to a touchdown on a two-yard shovel pass to James. Thomas also converted the two-point conversion attempt with a pass to Maehl that tied the score 19–19.
Only 2:17 remained on the clock.
Sitting on its 25-yard line following the kickoff and facing overtime against Oregon’s lethal offense, Auburn turned to freshman running back Michael Dyer. On second down following a 15-yard pass completion to Emory, Dyer, the game’s offensive MVP, took a Newton handoff and broke free into Oregon’s secondary. Thirty-seven yards later, the Tigers were camped on Oregon’s 23-yard line. Another Dyer rush for 16 yards three plays later put the Tigers’ on Oregon’s one-yard line with 10 seconds to play.
As time expired, Auburn place kicker Wes Byrum booted a game-winning 19-yard field goal to give the Tigers an unblemished 14–0 season and their first national championship since 1957. It was the first time the BCS NCG was decided as time expired as well as on an offensive play.
The three-point margin of victory matched the closest in BCS NCG history, joining the 2006 game (Texas 41, Southern California 38).
Auburn became the fifth consecutive BCS NCG winner from the Southeastern Conference, joining Alabama (2010), Florida (2007, ’09) and Louisiana State (2008).