Setting aside all the drama of Cam Newton and his possible, or alleged, violations of NCAA rules, the stage has been set for quite a while for an excellent championship game. Last night, that game unfolded in almost every great way it could have. After a scoreless first quarter, the action finally got started with Oregon chipping in a field goal. Replays quickly after those three points showed that Oregon's quarterback Darron Thomas missed LaMichael James for what could have been a touchdown. By the end of the game, Oregon would regret missing out on those four points.
Things continued as Auburn marched quickly down the field and scored a touchdown to put the Tigers up on the Ducks seven to three.
Oregon threw a gutsy play from their own five yard line and ultimately netted a touchdown from the resulting plays and then made it even better with Oregon coach Chip Kelly calling for a two point conversion and sealing it.
Auburn, again, came down the field with Newton doing the lion's share of the work. However, this time Auburn was the team that should have settled for the field goal. Newton threw the ball just a bit low, missed his target, and turned the ball over, and Oregon took over on their own two yard line.
The Auburn defense saw their chance, though, and forced a safety, the craziest play in football. (Seriously, it is the craziest play. You score and then you get the ball back? That doesn't happen with any other play in any other sport, right?) Auburn tacked on two points and got the ball back. The Tigers continued down the field and Newton threw for an easy touchdown.
On the ensuing Auburn kick, there was a penalty for 15 yards and Oregon capitalized to begin their drive. (Replays later showed it was a particularly dirty play by Eric Smith and it was good to see Auburn coach GeneChizik get all over Smith in reaction to the play.) Oregon, however, couldn't get the job done and settled for the punt on fourth and 10, giving the ball back to Auburn for the final couple plays of the first half, where the Tigers had a chance to set up for a field goal and ultimately settled for a Hail Mary just to see if they could grab some points. The game broke for halftime with Auburn up 16-11. (Another weird aspect for this game, that score seems suspiciously un-football-like.)
Auburn started the second half with the ball and quickly got down to business. After making it to the 11 yard line, Auburn came up short on third and five and settled for a field goal.
When Oregon received the ball, another Auburn personal foul (or dirty play, depending on your read of the situation) resulted in a 15 yard penalty and the Ducks moving quickly onto the other side of the field. Oregon stalled out midfield, though, and punted from the 41 yard line.
After Auburn had a four and out, Oregon took control of the ball and had a poor series followed by a faked punt for a first down. The next play was a long pass, setting up a goal line stand where Oregon simply could not force its way into the end zone. Auburn's defensive line held strong and received the ball on their own one yard line.
After a series of back and forths between the two teams, the fourth quarter was riddled with subpar offense from both teams, until Oregon forced a turnover around the five minute mark. They advanced the ball, finally converting in the red zone and securing a two-point conversion on a gutsy play.
After Auburn was conspicuously not tackled on the biggest play of the game, Michael Dyer broke free for what could have (and, perhaps on Oregon's part, should have) been a touchdown. However, Wes Byrum got the opportunity to kick the game-winning field goal. With two seconds left, the ball was snapped, set, held, and kicked good.
Oregon had their chance, and the game was a great one, but, ultimately, Cam Newton and the Auburn Tigers rolled to the SEC's fifth consecutive Championship games.