GLENDALE, Ariz. — Here’s what many thought might happen: When a whopping 37 days separate the best offense in college football taking snaps against someone other than itself, the timing and rhythm and accuracy that allowed it to shred others for an entire season might take at least a quarter to appear.
But it wasn’t the push-the-accelerator-down-someone’s-throat attack that cost Oregon on Monday evening.
Football plays did. Basic football plays.
The Ducks didn’t make nearly enough of them to deserve anything more than what they received.
The game’s wackiest play was significant and yet shouldn’t overshadow the previous 58 minutes or so, because as much as running back Michael Dyer’s quick feet and thinking in the closing moments ultimately led Auburn to a 22-19 victory in the Bowl Championship Series final, there was nothing unusual for why the Tigers found themselves hoisting a crystal trophy at night’s end inside University of Phoenix Stadium.
Forget the level of football. Forget the game’s magnitude. Forget the hype. One thing that never changes is that those who can block and tackle almost always succeed.
Oregon couldn’t block you or me on Monday, much less a front that was part of an Auburn defense that allowed 34 points to Kentucky and 43 to Arkansas and 31 to Mississippi and Georgia.
It couldn’t block Nick Fairley or Antoine Carter or Nosa Eguae or Zach Clayton to save its life. It couldn’t contain a linebacker such as Josh Bynes from cleaning up what those in front began.
It couldn’t open enough holes for running back LaMichael James (13 carries, 49 yards) or protect quarterback Darron Thomas.
Oregon was the bug and Auburn was the windshield, and the bug got squashed time and time and time again.
Duck soup is right.
"The matchup between our offensive line and their defensive line was the changing point," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. "It was a tough matchup for us. We got it going fast a few times, but not enough. We would ramp it up, but then you get behind on a penalty and it kind of puts you off track. There were times we just weren’t going as fast as we should."
The Ducks didn’t lead the country in scoring at nearly 50 points per game because they spent Saturday afternoons running into the meat of opposing lines. But they did it well enough to set up the rest of their wild-and-crazy scheme. They couldn’t run at all Monday, totaling 75 yards on 32 carries. That’s a 2.3 average. That’s awful.
They couldn’t run and couldn’t block and couldn’t sustain drives and couldn’t get Auburn off the field when they needed to most. They got nothing from their special teams and began second-half drives at their own 19, 27, 16, 14 and 45.
They couldn’t finish important plays, including the most important one, when Dyer took what should have been a short run 37 yards with under two minutes left by rolling over defender Eddie Pleasant and never dropping a knee to the ground. Dyer stood up, paused and took off to the Oregon 23. It was reviewed and called correctly.
He made an incredibly athletic play. A football play.
"You have to give credit to Auburn," Kelly said. "They have great players who made great plays when they really needed to. It has been an unbelievable journey for us. We’ll be back."
I have to think those Texas Christian players and coaches watching from home weren’t concerned about competing with college football’s other unbeatens. The Horned Frogs are every bit as good as either team that lined up here.
But what Auburn did, besides becoming the fifth straight Southeastern Conference team to win the BCS title, was prove all that time between games really can make an average unit a terrific one for 60 minutes.
Auburn was the more efficient team offensively with Dyer (22 carries, 143 yards) and Cam Newton (64 yards rushing, 264 passing, two touchdowns), but no one could have predicted the Tigers limiting Oregon as they did.
"All our defense heard about was the speed and tempo, but we made things so fast in practice, tonight was much slower than how we practiced," Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. "For the last month, there wasn’t a day where I said, ‘Man, we were terrible on defense.’ Our guys practiced every day to win a national championship.
"Our defensive guys played the best game of their lives."
It’s not some big secret why Auburn today stands as champion. Name the last time you saw a bug beat the windshield.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 2 to 4 p.m. Monday and Thursday on "Monsters of the Midday," Fox Sports Radio 920 AM.