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3 Days to Kickoff! - Michael (Was He Down?) Dyer!

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This ain’t just a countdown tonight.

NCAA Photos Archive

How ‘bout this for a coincidence!

We’re three days from kickoff, and I was planning on writing something to address the giant duck awkwardly standing in the corner, mumbling incoherently about life being “unfair” and “a sham”. It’s been going on more than eight years, so it’s finally time to address it.

In the course of doing that, we can commemorate the fact that we’re three days to kickoff of Auburn and Oregon in Arlington. Three days from kickoff means that we’re looking back at the third-greatest recruit in Tiger history.

Who might that be?

Whaaaaaaaaaa how appropriate!

Michael Dyer was a boss, but maybe his star shone too bright too fast. Coming out of high school, he was one of three stellar prep backs interested in Auburn. Marcus Lattimore and Lache Seastrunk were also rumored at certain points to be heading to the Plains, and sure enough Lattimore’s decision came down to Auburn and South Carolina. Dyer was the only one of the three that actually stuck, and he came in with high aplomb after a senior year at Little Rock Christian in which he ran for 1,800 yards and 23 touchdowns.

We lost Ben Tate after 2009, so Dyer was going to be counted on to be the guy. He became a success pretty quickly, running for 95 yards and a touchdown in his first career game against Arkansas State in 2010. Three weeks later he had his first 100-yard outing against his fellow freshman phenom when Auburn beat South Carolina. On Halloween weekend, as the Ole Miss defense focused exclusively on Cam Newton, Dyer wrecked the Rebels for 180 yards in a blowout in Oxford as Auburn stayed at #1 in the country.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Anyway, he broke Bo Jackson’s freshman rushing record during the 2010 season —

— and then, after Auburn had advanced all the way to the BCS Championship Game, he made history.

January 10th, 2011 was the culmination of 53 years of waiting for Auburn fans, as they made the first national championship game in school history. Six years earlier, things had gone sour between Tiger supporters and the BCS, with everyone from USC to ESPN drawing ire. In 2010, things were simple. Cam Newton led a 13-0 campaign in Gene Chizik’s second year, he swept away with the Heisman Trophy, and Auburn met 2nd-ranked Oregon in Glendale for the title. There was no controversy, both teams were undefeated, and the only two power conference teams that escaped the regular season unscathed.

The game wasn’t the cleanest affair (37 days between conference championships and the BCS Championship will do that to an offense), but Auburn still managed to gain 519 yards of offense, and really only made it a close game because of mistakes. Cam Newton short-armed a sure touchdown throw on 4th and goal early on, and two uncharacteristic turnovers stifled Auburn drives as well.

One constant was Michael Dyer’s running. The freshman was on pace to out-MVP Cam, as he rumbled for 143 yards on 22 carries and kept the offense moving all night long. Auburn’s defense held the vaunted Oregon rushing attack to just 75 yards total, and the Ducks only tied the game late after a quick touchdown drive following a turnover.

So, let’s set up the situation —

  • Auburn gets the ball at their own 25 with 2:23.
  • The Tigers had experienced near misses all night long. Wes Byrum hit a 28-yard field goal after a 39-yard strike to Philip Lutzenkirchen because the Tigers stalled at the goal line. We mentioned the miss on 4th down at the goal line. With less sloppy play, there’s no need to drive for the game-winning score. Furthermore, Oregon’s fake punt was only successful because an Auburn defender slipped on newly-installed sod. Without that, Auburn gets the ball on Oregon’s side of the field and a chance to push the lead early in the fourth quarter.
  • We had Cam Newton. He engineered clutch drives against Clemson, South Carolina, Kentucky, LSU, Arkansas, and Alabama. There’s literally no other player that I’d pick first to win one game in college.
  • After the first two drives, Auburn controlled the clock and rolled up 500 yards of offense.

So, those things considered, here’s how the drive was going...

Cam Newton hit Emory Blake for a quick 15-yard hitter, and the Tigers were already out to the 40-yard line. Michael Dyer takes the handoff on the zone read as Cam draws the defense to the left, and he gets hit around the Auburn 45, dragged down, rolls off the top of the defender, hesitates, and then runs for 31 more yards to put the Tigers in field goal position.

For the next several minutes, officials looked at the play from every angle.

Is this Dallas, 1963? The killshot that took down the Ducks got analyzed the same way the Zapruder film did.

And you know what? Maybe he was down. Does his ankle hit green grass? Possibly. Does his forearm come down? Yeah, maybe. Was the FBI in Glendale that day distracting the replay official? Where were the world’s greatest sharpshooters? In fact, there were some Army Intelligence people in Arizona that day — I’m still trying to figure out who and why — but they weren’t protecting the Ducks.

A lot of strange things were happening that day. Why did they replace the sod just two days before the game? Did you know the telephone system went out for a solid hour in Washington? Word had to be radioed to President Obama in the White House Situation Room about what had happened on that field.

There were likely backup teams to make sure things went the way of the SEC. And you know why? Because that’s the real question... the “how” is just scenery for the suckers... Cuba, the Mafia, Ruby... the “why” is important. An Oregon win splinters the SEC’s reign into a thousand pieces. The magical season for Auburn and Cam Newton never capitalizes on thirteen games’ worth of mysticism. Football is power, nothing more, and the SEC could not be allowed to fail. Too much rode on it.

Let’s pretend that none of that happens, and upon review Dyer is ruled down. It’s 2nd and 4 at the Auburn 46. Does it change history?

Hell no. The Tigers weren’t going to be stopped that night anyway.

Auburn still drove down to the goal line and ran out the clock for the game-winning field goal, and they only needed 20 yards to get into Byrum’s true range. Even if they hadn’t gotten down to the goal line, Byrum had experience with clutch kicks. Remember Gainesville 2007? Twice?

Long story short, you can analyze the No Whistle Missile from every angle. You can call your Senator, and you can fume and wish ill will on Auburn from thousands of miles away, but it still doesn’t change the fact that Gene Chiik put on an embossed Auburn black leather jacket and Chizzed all over Oregon with a boatload of trophies in front of him.

National champs, stand up. See you Duckies on Saturday.