When it was all said and done, the defensive squads of the #2 Oregon Ducks and the #1 Auburn Tigers were the true stars of the 2011 BCS National Championship Game, holding offenses used to scoring at least 30-40 points in a game to far less. They did score, though, with the final outcome depending on an easy chip-shot Auburn field goal to seal the victory for the Tigers.
But it was Auburn’s defense that shined, standing its ground when it mattered most — when Oregon made appearances in the Red Zone — that would prove the difference. Of course, there is little doubt that Oregon head coach Chip Kelly was kicking himself at game’s end for all those trick plays he tossed into the mix that got him nothing or next to nothing throughout the game, not to mention that fourth-and-goal opportunity where, instead of kicking a field goal, he opted for going for the touchdown and came away with nothing.
Regardless, at the end of four quarters at the 2011 BCS National Championship Game, which was shown on ESPN, the SEC champion Auburn Tigers had won their second national championship and garnered for the SouthEast Conference their fifth straight BCS national title.
It started off a bit sluggish, with both quarterbacks throwing interceptions. But the Ducks seemed to get some wind behind them and began connecting. They scored first, settling for a field goal when Auburn’s defense, led by Lombardi Trophy winner Nick Fairley, stopped them inside the Red Zone, something that would happen several times throughout the night.
Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, who faced suspension and possible ineligibility earlier in the year (and was suspended briefly before a quick NCAA reinstatement) when he and his father were caught up in a pay-for-play scandal, was almost completely ineffective in the first quarter as Oregon’s defense swarmed and stopped Auburn’s offense from moving the ball.
The second quarter was a different story, however, as Cam Newton and the Auburn offense gained over 200 yards and put some points on the board. By halftime, both offenses had put touchdown campaigns together and Auburn’s defense had grabbed a safety, making the score 16-11.
Auburn would score two field goals, one to add to their lead and one to win the game, in each of the remaining quarters and Oregon would score a touchdown with nearly 3 minutes to go in the games to tie it. Looking at the overall offensive numbers, it would seem that the score would have been somewhat higher. Auburn generated 519 total offensive yards, Oregon produced 449. But mistakes ruined several drives. Darron Thomas threw two interceptions for the Ducks, one in the Red Zone. Newton threw an interception and fumbled the ball.
But Chip Kelly’s decision to go for a fourth-and-one against a defense that had held them on the ground all night proved to be the difference in the game. Instead of kicking for an almost certain three points that would have brought his team to within five points near the end of the third quarter, Kelly chose to run the ball up the middle — and was stopped.
No surprise, actually, considering that Auburn kept stopping Oregon’s ground game all night, keeping the over 300 yards per game Ducks to a total of 89 rushing yards on the night.
“When it comes down to a field goal at the last second, you can always point to play here, a play there, but it really doesn’t do much for you,” Oregon coach Chip Kelly said after the game. “We’re a forward-thinking operation, and we’ll learn from this thing and move forward.”
But backward-looking fans will see several plays here and there that could have been called or played differently that might have spelled Oregon’s first national championship title. And more than a few will no doubt point to Chip Kelly’s bag of tricks, his reverses and flip-pass options that generally netted the Ducks several yards lost instead of catching the Auburn defense unaware. Instead, Oregon Ducks fans have no choice but to look forward or wallow in the disappointment of what might have been.
It was not the high-scoring affair many had thought it would be. Some, like South Carolina’s coach Steve Spurrier, had seen it as a 100-plus scorefest. Many others had also seen the score totaling over at least 70 points.
It did not unfold as predicted. The defenses came to play…
As for Auburn, a field goal after a two-and-a-half-minute drive gave them a hardfought win, and they got to take home the 2011 BCS National Championship Game Trophy. Cam Newton got the game ball, but he should maybe share it with his defensive squad for keeping the Ducks on their heels throughout the evening. Or perhaps share it with running back Michael Dyer, who rushed for 143 yards. Still, the Heisman winner did his share for the Tigers’ win, passing for two touchdowns and 265 yards, not to mention gaining an additional 64 yards on the ground.
Auburn’s victory also continues the SouthEast Conference’s dominance of the BCS National Championship. In its 13-year history, the SEC has won all seven of its national championship game appearances. Auburn’s was the fifth win a row for SEC teams, following arch-rivals Alabama, who won the national title in 2010, then Florida (2009), LSU (2008), and Florida again (2007).
Tigers head coach Gene Chizik, who also was selected as the NCAA Coach of the Year prior to the 2011 BCS National Championship Game, said after his team kicked the winning field goal: “Winning a championship for the Auburn family, I can’t really describe it right now. To try would probably cheapen it.”
Perhaps the score might suffice: Auburn 22, Oregon 19.
“Auburn claims SEC’s fifth straight national title by dropping Oregon on late field goal,” ESPN.go.com