GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A 37-day layoff is apparently enough time for an offense to gain considerable rust.
The high-powered offenses of Auburn and Oregon didn’t supply any fireworks early in Monday night’s BCS national championship game, which was billed as an offensive showcase for the ages.
The first quarter featured three turnovers, three punts and no points.
Auburn’s Demond Washington and Zac Etheridge both intercepted Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas, the second of which ended a drive at the Tigers’ 14-yard line.
The Tigers weren’t any sharper, however. Auburn finished with only 21 yards of offense in the first quarter, the third time this season it failed to score in the first 15 minutes of a game.
Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton looked out of sorts, throwing into double coverage for an interception by Oregon’s Cliff Harris on the Tigers’ second drive. It was Newton’s seventh pick this year and only his second in the last eight games.
Both teams got going in a second quarter that featured 27 points, however. The Tigers ran 36 plays for 258 yards. Newton had touchdown passes of 35 yards to Kodi Burns and 30 yards to Emory Blake as Auburn took a 16-11 lead into halftime.
The Ducks gained 107 yards, 81 of which came on a long pass to receiver Jeff Maehl.
Not in attendance
Once again, Cecil Newton stayed away. Cam’s father, whose access to Auburn was limited after the NCAA ruled he solicited money from Mississippi State for his son to sign there last year, did not attend Monday’s BCS national championship game.
Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs told the Associated Press that the decision “was mutually agreed upon. Out of the highest respect that Cecil has for Cameron, he won’t be here today.”
The NCAA cleared Cam of wrongdoing in early December, restoring his eligibility after ruling him briefly ineligible for a 24-hour period in what was a procedural matter.
But as part of the ruling, Auburn agreed to limit Cecil’s connection to the program. He did not attend the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York last month either.
Newton once again one-upped his one-time mentor, former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.
Newton’s 5-yard run on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter broke Tebow’s SEC single-season record for total offense. Tebow had 4,181 yards in 2007, a number Newton tied with a 22-yard completion to Darvin Adams just before halftime.
Newton also accounted for two first-half touchdowns, giving him 51 this season. That’s second in SEC history to Tebow’s 55 in 2007.
Burns’ first touchdown catch of the season came at a big time. The senior hauled in an open pass across the middle early in the second quarter, making a defender miss before leaping into the end zone past a cluster of Ducks for a 35-yard score.
Burns has mostly been a blocker in the two years after coaches moved him from quarterback to receiver before the 2009 season. He had 10 receptions this season for 142 yards and no scores before his touchdown grab Monday.
It was his first touchdown catch since hauling in a 5-yard score at Georgia in 2009.
Running back Mike Dyer did not play in the first quarter but returned at the start of the second quarter. There was no immediate official word on if it was a disciplinary action.
The freshman, who broke Bo Jackson’s Auburn freshman rushing record with 950 yards through 13 games, had 47 first-half rushing yards, going over the 1,000 yard mark in the third quarter.
Dyer and Newton are the first Auburn teammates to go over 1,000 yards in the same season since 1979, when James Brooks (1,208 yards) and Joe Cribbs (1,120) both accomplished the feat.
Auburn’s Gene Chizik was named the Liberty Mutual National Coach of the year prior to Monday’s game. He was named the Home Depot National Coach of the Year in December.
Chizik was one of 10 Football Bowl Subdivision finalists for the award, which was decided by national media, College Football Hall of Fame players and coaches and fan voting.
The winning coaches at each of the four NCAA football classifications received $50,000 to donate to charity. Chizik chose the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Lee County and Team Ministries. A $20,000 scholarship award will also be presented in his name to Auburn University.
Wintry weather in Alabama left some Auburn fans with tickets to the BCS championship game out in the cold back home, while others scrambled for alternative routes or endured delays.
Charter flights out of Birmingham Airport were able to take off by midday. On campus, both classes and the viewing party scheduled at Auburn Arena were canceled.
Tigers fan James Harrison made it to Arizona from Charlotte, N.C., but hadn’t been able to reach friends trying to get there.
“I know people who were sleeping in the airport at Birmingham,” Harrison said. “Who knows if they made it or not?”
Chase Payne said he had friends who were scheduled to fly out of Birmingham but drove a few hours to either Memphis, Tenn., or New Orleans to catch other flights.
“They said lots of people have been doing this,” Payne said.
One Alabama resident who didn’t get to make the trip: Gov. Bob Riley, who didn’t want to leave after declaring a state of emergency in Alabama on Sunday.
He encouraged Alabama residents to stay home Monday night and “enjoy the Auburn game.”
Auburn reserve cornerback Chris Davis left the game after injuring his right ankle on the opening kickoff. He didn’t return after being helped off the field and taken to the locker room. … Jackson was an honorary captain for Auburn, joining left tackle Lee Ziemba, Etheridge and Burns at midfield for the pre-game coin toss. Former Oregon receiver and running back Ahmad Rashad was the honorary captain for the Ducks. … Defensive tackle Mike Blanc took down Oregon’ running back LaMichael James for a safety in the second quarter, Auburn’s first since Josh Bynes had one against Ball State in 2009.
-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.