GLENDALE, Ariz. — Maybe, for the Oregon Ducks, it was just a matter of finding out for themselves the difference between a Heisman Trophy winner and a Heisman Trophy finalist.
The Ducks too often couldn't handle Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, the 6-6, 250-pound Heisman-winning quarterback.
And the Ducks couldn't get their Heisman finalist, dynamic running back LaMichael James, on track.
Newton, who averaged 307.5 yards of total offense a game, totaled 329.
James, who led the nation by running for 152.9 yards a game, ran for 49.
That didn't add up for Oregon, which lost to Auburn 22-19 in its bid to win the school's first football national championship.
In some ways, it was characteristic Chip Kelly-coached Oregon football.
There was a fake extra-point kick that turned into a rushing two-point conversion by the placekicker.
There was a successful fake punt in which the punter passed the ball to a defensive back.
There was fast-paced offense, too, at least one drive dizzyingly so.
But, in too many ways for the Ducks, it was uncharacteristic Oregon football.
The quarterback, Darron Thomas, who threw seven interceptions in 12 previous games, threw two in the first quarter.
Most uncharacteristic of all, James, and the running game, stalled. In fact, when it was over, the stats for Oregon's running game were stunning.
The Ducks averaged 303.8 rushing yards a game this year, and only twice — against Arizona State and California — were they held to fewer than 200 rushing yards.
But Auburn held them to 75 yards. Seventy-five!
As for James, he had been held to less than 100 yards rushing twice.
In the "Civil War" victory against Oregon State, James ran 28 times for 134 yards and two touchdowns.
Earlier in the season, against Southern California, he erupted for 239 yards on a career-high 36 attempts.
Before that, James had a career-high 257 yards on 31 carries against Stanford.
In other words, most of the season he was all but unstoppable.
But it was clear from the beginning that the Auburn Tigers were not going to just watch James run through them.2 comments on this story
Stacking their defense against the run, the Tigers clogged the running lanes and dared Thomas to beat them. Thomas finished 27-for-40 for 363 yards passing.
James thus became something few teams have been able to turn him into — just another guy on the field.
He did score a touchdown on a beautifully designed passing play in the second quarter and on a 2-yard shovel pass in the fourth. But too often for Oregon, when he was handed the ball, he didn't go far. And he wasn't handed the ball all that much - 13 times.
Once when he was handed the ball he allowed Auburn two points, getting tackled in the end zone by Tigers defensive tackle Mike Blanc.