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The D Is The Difference As Auburn – Fittingly – Wins A Squeaker

A 17-14 win over Mississippi State.  A 27-24 overtime win over Clemson.  Kentucky falls 37-34.  LSU goes down 24-17.  Alabama is overtaken 28-27 in the Iron Bowl.

Is it any surprise Auburn’s victory in the BCS Championship Game came on a last-second field goal?

Winning their first national title since 1957, Gene Chizik’s Tigers bested Oregon 22-19 in Glendale, Arizona last night.  For a full month the talk had centered on Gus Malzahn and AU’s offense.  But in the desert, the difference was Ted Roof’s defense.

For the season, Oregon had averaged 50 rushes for 303 yards per game with a 6-yard per carry average.  Last night’s totals: 32 rushes, 75 yards, 2.3 yards per carry.  Yes, the Ducks passed for 374 yards, but it was their inability to run that kept them from really getting into their normal rhythm.  It was that inability to run that put the entire game on Darron Thomas’ arm… with Nick Fairley and gang breathing down his neck down after down.

Instead of piling up the 49.3 points they were averaging per game, the run-stuffed Ducks managed just 19 against Auburn’s powerful, fast D-line.

Congrats to the Auburn team for a magical season.  All champions need to catch breaks.  Champions that record one last-second win after another eventually are handed the “team of destiny” title.  AU deserves that after recording so many late-game victories.

But bigger congrats go out to Auburn’s fans.  In 2004 the Tigers deserved a shot at the national title, but that shot never came.  And whatever you think about the Cam Newton situation, the Auburn fanbase wasn’t to blame for the controversy.  In fact, no loyal fans of any school deserve to have a great season marred by controversy… especially one marred by the actions of a player’s father while dealing with another school.  Enjoy it, Tiger fans.


A few observations:

* Let’s start with the pregame.  I don’t know about you, but I thought it was fun to see Nick Saban and Urban Meyer working together at the ESPN anchor desk.  Both were nervous — Meyer spoke in loops early and Saban needed to be handcuffed — but listening to two of the best coaches in SEC history talk about the build-up to a BCS title game was interesting.  Thumbs up to the coaches and to ESPN.

* It was clear that a combination of jitters and rust owned the first quarter of play.  Neither high-flying offense could take flight as both quarterbacks tossed early interceptions.  Auburn eventually calmed down (250+ yards in second quarter), but Oregon never did get into its normal pace.  Again, AU’s defensive line kept them from doing so.

* Biggest penalty of the game: Oregon jumps offside on a 3rd-and-8 red zone stop giving Newton and crew another shot on a 3rd-and-3.  Result: Touchdown.  With a final score of 22-19, that mistake stands out.

* Speaking of the refs, kudos to the Big Ten crew for two great calls on Auburn’s final drive.  First, they wisely refused to blow the whistle as Mike Dyer rolled over an Oregon defender, got up, and then — prompted by his sideline — continued to run for a 37-yard gain.  Second, Dyer was given a touchdown with 10 seconds remaining after rolling over another Duck.  But replay showed that he was actually down at the half-yard line.  The officials corrected the call and the Tigers went on to run one time-killing play before Wes Byrum nailed the game-winning kick as time expired.

* How about Byrum?  Was that a perfect way for Auburn’s all-time leading scorer to go out or what?

* Dyer also deserves a tip of the cap.  The tailback who eclipsed Bo Jackson’s freshman rushing mark this season carried the ball 22 times for 144 yards.  That’s a 6.5-yards per carry average.  For a freshman.  In the BCS title game. 

* On the downside of things, while Fairley played another great game, he was also caught on camera and by officials for shoving LaMichael James’ head into the ground after a play.  Celebrate the win, Tiger fans, but don’t try to pretend that Fairley isn’t a dirty player.  He earned his reputation for a reason.  And if he wore anything other than navy and orange you’d agree.

* Newton was not the difference for Auburn last night.  Nor was Malzahn.  Both were good, but it was the play of the Tigers’ D-line that stole the show.  But what does it say when your quarterback goes 20 of 34 for 265 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air, rushes for 82 additional yards, and your team rolls up 519 yards of offense… only to have the defense credited with the win?  In other words, credit the D for making the difference last night, but don’t pooh-pooh the offense.  Things weren’t as easy as usual for the Tigers, but they still came through when needed.

* Oh, and with the win the Southeastern Conference just won its fifth BCS crown in a row.  No, we haven’t forgotten about that and we’ll have more on that topic a little later today.

 


3 comments
johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Ryan...

Auburn fans have behaved no differently than any other SEC fanbase would have if the roles had been reversed. Congrats and enjoy the win.

John

Ryan
Ryan

As an AU alum and huge football fan I just wanted to say thanks for the nice words. I'm not sure what people expect us to do given the circumstances of this season - just stop following the team; disown them because of allegations that may or may not be true; just stop caring? I couldn't do that even if we hadn't had an undefeated season going and had the most exciting player in CFB on our team. No fan of any other team would do that and if the tables were reversed you would be rooting on your team and defending the star player too. As for Fairley he is a beast and damn near unblockable at this level. But he's gotta stop with the after the whistle shenanigans. It's just stupid. WDE!

Steve
Steve

as soon as the pac 10 or big 12 win 5 in a row, then they will be equal to the SEC.
Most fans fail to measure properly, Measure all the teams in a league from top to bottom, not just the number one.
Which league could beat the SEC number 9 , 10 or 11 matched up with their lower tier teamsn

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