Since Auburn’s 22-19 defeat of Oregon for the national championship on Monday night, there are a half-dozen conversation starters I suspect will linger with Ducks football fans until next season.
1) Auburn’s defense was too quick laterally for the Ducks’ usually dominating running game to go outside, and too big for Oregon’s LaMichael James to run inside. The result: too many 3rd-and-9s when Auburn knew quarterback Darren Thomas had to pass.
2) Yes, Oregon left points on the field when they couldn’t score TDs in the red zone. But so did Auburn, with quarterback Cam Newton missing two sure TD passes.
3) Any hopes of a special teams game-changer with a big Cliff Harris punt return faded because Auburn was smart enough to do what other teams should: Kick the ball toward the sidelines. The Tigers also covered ferociously on kickoffs, leaving Oregon with consistently lousy field position.
4) Pure joy when Oregon tied it at 19 with 2:33 left. Pure sense of the inevitable when Auburn running back Michael Dyer got up after appearing tackled on the final possession for a 37-yard run that put Auburn into field goal position for the win. Ducks fans can’t bitch—the refs made the right call. Just like the whistle-never-blew run by Oregon’s Maurice Morris in the 2002 Fiesta Bowl.
5) Rejection of any meme that Chip Kelly can’t win the big bowl. He’s 22-4 overall. Relax. And you can be sure if Kelly wins a championship, he won’t ape Auburn’s coach Gene Chizik, who never mentioned his opponent right after the win and told a post-game interviewer, “God was on our side.”
6) Some comfort that Jim Harbaugh, the coach for Oregon’s toughest conference opponent in 2011 (Stanford), is leaving for the NFL and that both Thomas and James will return to Eugene.