Was He Down, Or Not? Title Games Shouldn’t Be Decided Like That
So was Michael Dyer down, or not?
That’s the lingering question from a dramatic, defense-dominated and somewhat less than stylish, BCS Championship Game on Monday night.
Auburn was the better team for most of the evening and deserved to win. But did the Tigers really want to win THAT way? Did they really want this thing decided on a play that should have been blown dead but wasn’t?
Here was the situation in the final minutes of the fourth quarter: Oregon had tied the score at 19, and Auburn freshman running back Michael Dyer, surprisingly the most effective runner in the game, was carrying the ball at midfield. He broke off a run of about 6 or 7 yards, was seemingly tackled and players from both teams stopped in their tracks. Then people on the Tigers’ sideline seemed to think Dyer fell atop his tackler and his knee never hit the ground. They urged him to keep running, which he did, until finally stopped after a 37 yard gain.
It was the play of the night, because it put Auburn in field goal territory and, with the help of another Dyer burst from 16 yards, the Tigers finally edged Oregon on a 19-yard Wes Byrum field goal, 22-19.
Officials reviewed the play and ruled their decision would stand, but they were wrong. It shouldn’t have, because Oregon’s defenders stopped running and so did almost everyone else but Dyer. It was a freakish play that shouldn’t have decided a game of this importance.
But it did, and they’re sure not going to change it now. You can be sure Ducks’ rooters will be complaining about it for years, but they can’t really complain about losing to a better balanced, more physical group.
Here are some quick hits from what was certainly an interesting evening in Arizona:
1. Where was all the offense? Who would have guessed that the nation’s two highest scoring teams would struggle to score points? The over-under in Las Vegas was 74 points, the highest in recent memory. These two high-powered outfits barely managed to scrape up 41 points. Just shows you how you never know in sports.
2. Cam Newton was good in this game, but he wasn’t great. The Heisman Trophy winner outplayed Darron Thomas, his Oregon counterpart, and made some big plays, especially with his arm. But those bullish runs that made him so effective all season were missing most of the evening, and he did fumble away the ball to allow the Ducks to tie the score late in the final period.
3. The best player on the field was Nick Fairley, Auburn’s unblockable defensive lineman. This guy was a disruptive force all night long and dispensed one of the more dominant performances I’ve seen by a down lineman in a big game.
4. The secret to beating Oregon is to get the Ducks in a bowl game. Seriously, that unstoppable offense has been shut down twice now in the postseason, by Ohio State in last year’s Rose Bowl and now by Auburn. The big difference in this game: Chip Kelly’s kids couldn’t run consistently and that put too much pressure on Thomas, who was off and on much of the evening, although he did throw a great clutch TD pass to tie it late.
5. Will Newton star in the NFL? I’m still not sure. He’s a wonderful athlete, he throws the ball better than Tim Tebow and is faster than the new Broncos’ starter at quarterback. But will Newton be able to read defenses and master all the other intricacies of the sport’s most difficult position? Maybe. Michael Vick seems to have done it. Still, Newton remains something of a gamble. I think he’ll be a No. 1 draft choice and probably go in the first 10 to 15 selections, but he isn’t nearly as polished and ready as someone like Andrew Luck.
6. The kid who was the biggest winner was Dyer, who immediately became an Auburn folk hero, a 2011 All American candidate and probably a future Heisman contender, as well, after rushing for 143 yards and basically taking over the game at the end.
Ah, yes, but was he tackled and down on that controversial last-minute play, or not? That’s something college football fans will be arguing about for a long time.
— STEVE BISHEFF