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Published: Tuesday, 1/11/2011

Auburn wins thriller over Oregon in national title game

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Auburn running back Michael Dyer never heard any whistle, so he just kept running — past the tackler who thought he had him down and deep into Oregon territory.

Dyer broke stride, then took off on a once-in-a-lifetime run in the final minutes, setting up a field goal on the last play that led No. 1 Auburn over the No. 2 Ducks 22-19 in the BCS championship game on Monday night.

The freshman running back upstaged Auburn's Heisman-winning quarterback Cam Newton with a 37-yard run, in which he appeared down but wasn't — his knee never hit the ground — as he rolled over Oregon defender Eddie Pleasant to put the Tigers in scoring position.

Three plays later, Dyer ran 16 yards to push the ball to the 1 and set up Wes Byrum's 19-yard field goal with no time left. It was his sixth career game-winning field goal — the one that capped off a perfect, 14-0 season, brought the title back to Auburn for the first time since 1957 and left the Southeastern Conference on top for the fifth straight year.

"Fifty-three years, baby," coach Gene Chizik said to the cheering crowd. "This is for you. War Eagle!"

A classic sequence to close 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 craziness began when Casey Matthews, son of the former NFL linebacker Clay Matthews, knocked the ball from Newton's hands while he was trying to ice a 19-11 lead.

Oregon's offense, shut down by Nick Fairley and Company for most of the night, moved 45 yards over the next 2:17 and Darron Thomas threw a shovel pass to LaMichael James for a touchdown. Thomas hit Jeff Maehl for the tying two-point conversion with 2:33 left and the game was down to one possession.

And that possession will be remembered for one incredible play.

Dyer took the handoff from Newton and ran off right tackle for what looked like a 6- or 7-yard gain. Nothing routine about this one, though. He never heard a whistle, wasn't sure his knee 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.

Oregon's Lache Seastrunk leaps over Auburn's Neiko Thorpe in the first half of Monday night's BCS national championship game. Oregon's Lache Seastrunk leaps over Auburn's Neiko Thorpe in the first half of Monday night's BCS national championship game.
CHARLIE RIEDEL / AP Enlarge

"I was going out there, trying to make a play. I just kept my feet moving," he said.

The freshman 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 possible 60-55 shootout by Steve Spurrier and a 74-point touchdown-fest by the oddsmakers who set the over-under.

Wearing white jerseys, green pants and DayGlo shoes and socks, the Ducks got only 49 yards rushing from James. 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.

Auburn led 16-11 at halftime as the Tigers rolled up 258 yards in the second quarter and picked up right where they left off at the start of the third.

The Tigers drove into the red zone, but stalled and settled for Byrum's 28-yard field goal to make it 19-11.

Oregon had its best chance to score on its second possession of the third quarter, using a faked punt in its own territory to keep the ball and a 43-yard pass from Darron Thomas to Lavasier Tuinei, who made a juggling catch, to get down to the Auburn 3.

The first Oregon run went backwards, but the next two left Oregon at the 1 facing fourth down.

Thomas handed to Kenjon Barner, but he didn't get close to the goal line, with throng of Auburn defenders stacking him up for no gain.



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