The Auburn Tigers and somebody or thing named War Eagle won the NCAA BCS football Championship tonight. A well deserved victory, as the Auburn side dominated. While second year coach Gene Chizik said “God was on our side” and certainly Cam Newton and defensive standout Nick Fairley just appeared as gods, each performing above the level of their peers and the balance of the game, it was human error that was a consistent theme.
There was an entertaining game to be sure. But mistakes on both sides limited overall scoring. And that is harsh judgment on two teams that produced drama and lots of great plays. There are plenty of pundits that will go on about the individual stories, programs, what went right for who, significant plays and just what the War Eagle stuff is about. What stood out to me, beyond the social political and spiritual clash opportunities provided by the Christians from the south winning out on the pot smoking heathens from Oregonia, was what I hope leads to either a rules change or teaching players to stop the rolling pulling tackle.
The final decisive drive of the game, fittingly pulled off by Auburn, which deserved the last chance based upon their performance overall, had two similar plays reviewed. One review went Auburn’s way that meant there would be no overtime. The other denied them a touchdown that wasn’t really necessary.
On each play, #11 of the Ducks tackled the Auburn ball carrier by grabbing his elbows from behind and rolling his opponent on top of himself. This move seems to be either taught or learned by defensive players who are looking to cause a fumble and want to keep the ball carrier’s knees from the ground, so as to have longer, and thus more opportunity to separate ball and carriers. On the first most important instance, the ball carrier made an athletic move, came to his feet and stopped. At the urging of those on his sideline, he started to run once again. Players on both teams had come to a halt. An Oregon defensive player was close enough to have fallen on the two other players, but didn’t, because if the play were dead, then he would be guilty of a foul. But no whistle had blown. By the time Oregon recovered, the ball had been advanced sufficiently to know that Auburn would run the clock down, taking whatever yards closer they might get, as it was well inside their kicker’s field goal range. Yet despite the near meaningless grind that such sequences sometimes become, Auburn’s control of the line unleashed a run that appeared to score a touchdown. Same players, same sort of action. This time the knee was shown down in replay. Auburn was denied a seven point victory, and fans got championship clock management. TV got some more commercials.
While Auburn had to make the kick, the edge of the seat quality of the game was as distant as Eugene. If there had been overtime, and Oregon had pulled it out, there would be a lot of ugly ducking talk, and deservedly so. While the Ducks are god’s creatures too, it was not their night, or game.
Cam Newton, in his post game interview, witnessed for his God, making his mother and lots of Christians proud. The look in his eye made it clear that the young man, who faced the slings and arrows this season to flourish in his biggest game on the biggest stage, who took a lot of vicious hits, overthrew several sure thing TDs yet still delivered stupendous stats, was transcendent. I found his professing of faith and God so much more compelling and admirable than that of his coach, or the exciting QB he played behind at Florida, Tim Tebow. Hearing him, it made sense to me- a USC fan- that Cam Newton will not be sanctioned for his family working his name as Reggie Bush, Mike Garret, Pete Carroll and the Trojan nations were.
With Vince Young out to pasture, and Michael Vick ever to be on a redemption tour, Cam Newton has the best opportunity to truly redefine NFL quarterbacking.