Nick Fairley. The big defensive tackle twice saved Auburn when Oregon had driven deep into Auburn territory. The Ducks had first-and-10 at the Auburn 20 when Fairley crashed through the line unblocked and rushed Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas into an interception at the Tigers’ 14. Oregon later faced third down at the Auburn 3 when Fairley again was barely touched as he blew through the line and stopped Thomas for a 6-yard loss, forcing Oregon into a field goal at the start of the second quarter.
Two. Oregon had far more success driving the ball in the first quarter, but the Ducks didn’t do themselves any favors by committing a pair of turnovers. Although Oregon outgained Auburn 125 yards to 21 in the quarter, neither team managed to put points on the board. Auburn safety Zac Etheridge halted an Oregon drive at the Auburn 14 with an interception and cornerback Demond Washington picked off another Thomas pass at the Oregon 48. The turnovers were particularly surprising for an Oregon offense that came in ranked seventh in the nation in turnover margin, having thrown only seven interceptions all season.
Washington’s interception set Auburn up at the Ducks’ 47 midway through the quarter, but Auburn quarterback Cam Newton gave the ball right back with an ill-advised throw to Emory Blake into traffic. Oregon’s Cliff Harris picked off the pass at the 25 and returned it to midfield. The Ducks failed to capitalize, however, as Fairley forced Thomas into another interception after Oregon had driven to the Auburn 20.
The two teams started off in unusually sloppy fashion, combining to commit three turnovers -- one by Auburn and two by Oregon. Newton threw only his second interception in the last eight games when Harris picked him off at the Ducks’ 25-yard line to kill Auburn’s best drive of the quarter. Auburn managed to fend off two Oregon drives deep into Tiger territory, forcing an interception and a short field goal that came on the second play of the second quarter.
— David Ching