Auburn wins college football title
Wed, 12 Jan 2011 12:41p.m.
By Eddie Pells
Michael Dyer rushed for 53 yards on two spectacular plays with time running down to help No. 1 Auburn rally for a 22-19 win over No. 2 Oregon and capture the college football national championship yesterday.
After Oregon had leveled the game at 19, Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton and Auburn came right back with a 73-yard drive, highlighted by a 37-yard run by the freshman Dyer. First he rolled over an Oregon tackler and, with most of the players thinking the play was over around midfield, scooted another 30 yards to the 23-yard line.
Three plays later, Dyer ran 16 yards to push the ball to the 1-yard-line and set up Wes Byrum's field goal with no time left.
It was Byrum's sixth career game-winning field goal - the one that capped off a perfect, 14-0 season and brought the title back to Auburn University for the first time since 1957.
"Fifty-three years, baby," coach Gene Chizik said to the cheering crowd. "This is for you. War Eagle!"
A few hours after the game, Auburn won The Associated Press national title as well, earning 56 of the 59 first-place votes. TCU was second and Oregon came in third.
Dyer was the star of a classic sequence that closed out a wild finish - five crazy minutes of football that made up for the first 55, which were more of a bruising battle than the offensive masterpiece everyone had predicted.
The madness began when Casey Matthews knocked the ball from Newton's hands while he was trying to ice a 19-11 lead.
Oregon's offense, shut down by the Auburn defense for most of the night, moved 45 yards over the next 2:17 before Darron Thomas tossed a shovel pass to LaMichael James for a touchdown. Thomas then hit Jeff Maehl for the 2-point conversion with 2:33 left to even the score.
When Auburn got the ball back, Dyer took the handoff from Newton and ran off right tackle for what looked like a 6- or 7-yard gain. But he never heard a whistle and wasn't sure his knee had hit the ground, so he popped up and kept going.
Almost everyone on the field had stopped playing, but the referee never blew the play dead. Dyer made it to the Oregon 23. An official's review ensued and the replay showed that, indeed, his knee had never touched the turf.
"Really, it was going through my mind to get the first down, hold onto the ball," Dyer says. "And the time being tackled, my knee wasn't down ... I didn't hear a whistle, not yet, so I was kind of, like, looking, like, what's going on?"
Eddie Pleasant, the Oregon defensive back who almost made the tackle, was as shocked as anyone.
"It hurts, you know," he says. "It's not like he broke free and did some spectacular things. He was tackled. Everybody on the side of the defence stopped. He stopped and the coach told him to keep running and he ran."
Dyer finished with 143 yards and was named Offensive Player of the Game - no small feat considering he had the Heisman Trophy winner, Newton, playing well on the same offense.
Newton threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 64 yards, most in short, punishing bites.
It was a good performance, but not spectacular - par for the course in a game that was projected as a 74-point touchdown fest by the oddsmakers who set the over-under.
The Ducks got only 49 yards rushing from James and an offense that had been held under 37 points only once all year managed just the two touchdowns.
The last one came on a simple shovel pass from Thomas, who finished with 363 yards - 81 of which came on a long pass to Maehl that set up the first touchdown.
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