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On This Date in Sports January 10, 2011: Auburn is #1

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Auburn wins the BCS National Championship defeating Oregon 22-19 in the Championship Game in Glendale, Arizona. The Tigers won a back and forth battle on a 19-yard field goal by Wes Bynum as time expired. It is the second National Championship for Auburn who was led by Heisman winner Cam Newton. Newton passed for 265 yards with two touchdowns as the Tigers beat the Ducks in a battle of unbeaten teams. 

The Auburn Tigers came out of nowhere in 2010. After Alabama won the National Championship a year earlier, Auburn hoped to just compete as second-year coach Gus Chizik named Cam Newton as his starting quarterback. Newton had been enrolled at Florida but after accusations, he stole laptops, he was without a scholarship. In 2009, Cam Newton led Blinn College to a Junior National Championship and was again recruited by top-level programs, choosing to attend Auburn. 

Cam Newton found redemption, winning the Heisman at Auburn even though there were questions over his eligibility to play. After getting off to a strong start there were reports that Cam Newton’s father Cecil received substantial payments from boosters during the recruitment period. The NCAA was not able to substantiate the allegations as Auburn beat Bama in the Iron Bowl 28-27. The Tigers then beat South Carolina 56-17 in the SEC Championship to finish 12-0 with the number one ranking to earn a spot in the BCS Championship Game.

It was a historic season for Oregon, as they had the best season in school history reaching number one for the first time in school history. Led by Chip Kelly, the Ducks went 9-0 and won the Pac-10 Championship. They finished 12-0 on the season and earned a bid in the BCS. LaMichael James was Oregon’s biggest star. He rushed for 1,682 yards with 22 touchdowns despite being suspended for the first game of the season. James finished third in Heisman voting behind Newton and Andrew Luck of Stanford. 

The first quarter was a stalemate as neither team was able to score. Oregon was able to break through early in the second quarter as Rob Beard nailed a 26-yard field goal. Auburn responded by quickly going down the field as Kodi Burns caught a 35-yard pass from Cam Newton to give the Tigers a 7-3 lead. The Ducks needed just 62 seconds to answer as LaMichael James caught an eight-yard pass from Darron Thomas. The score was 11-7 after Oregon successfully completed the two-point try. Late in the second quarter, the game swung back in Auburn’s favor as Oregon was pinned deep in their own territory. The Tigers would take advantage as James was tackled in the end zone for a safety. On the ensuing possession, Auburn would take a 16-11 lead as Emory Blake scored on a 30-pass from Newton. 

With Auburn holding a 16-11 at the half, the game became a defensive struggle. Wes Bynum hit a 28-yard field goal to extend the lead to 19-11. The teams traded possessions for most of the second half until Oregon recovered a fumble on the Tigers’ 40-yard line. The Ducks took advantage as LaMichael James caught a two-yard pass from Thomas for a touchdown. Oregon would again get the two-point conversion to tie the game at 19. Auburn got the ball with 2:23 left and drove down the field. The Tigers got the ball down to the one-yard line, as Wes Bynum was set up for a 19-yard field goal on the last play of the game, winning the National Championship for Auburn. It was the second National Championship for Auburn who previously won in 1957.