GLENDALE, Ariz. -- For 12 straight games, Oregon’s high-powered offense had rolled through defenses. But Monday night in the BCS Championship game, it was Nick Fairley and the Auburn defense that stood tall.
Fairley celebrates a big play by the defense/AuburnUndercover.com
The Ducks were held to a season-low 75 yards rushing after coming into the game averaging over 300 yards per game. Heisman finalist LaMichael James was stuffed for a season-low 49 rushing yards.
“The matchup with our offensive line and their defensive line was really the changing point in that football game,” Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. “I will give Auburn credit, they’ve got a great front four.
“Nick Fairley proved he was the best defensive lineman in the country. It was a tough matchup for us.”
Fairley was outstanding totaling five solo tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss, one sack and one forced fumble. Time and time again, Fairley and the Auburn defense would come up with big plays including a safety in the second quarter and fourth-down stop on the 1-yard line late in the third quarter.
“They were tired. I was tired. We were just going to see who hit who in the mouth last,” Fairley said.
With a Lombardi Award, BCS defensive MVP award and school single-season records in both tackles-for-loss (24) and sacks (11.5), Fairley finished his junior year with one of the best season for a defensive player in Auburn history.
And it could very well be his last. The Mobile, Ala., native is projected as a potential top five pick in this spring’s NFL Draft.
“If it is his final game, what a dang great game to end it on,” defensive line coach Tracy Rocker said. “I’m just proud of the way he approached the game. He played hard and he laid it out there.
“That’s how it was the whole season. I never had to question his effort. I told him if you want to be special you have to do it every game. And he did it.”