NCF Nation: Wes Byrum

SEC update from Shrine Game

January, 24, 2011
1/24/11
10:43
AM ET
A couple of quick tidbits involving SEC players in the East-West Shrine Game over the weekend:

Tennessee defensive end Chris Walker helped punctuate the East's 25-8 win by sacking Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor inside his own 2-yard line, forcing a fumble. The ball rolled into the end zone and was recovered for a East touchdown by North Carolina's Marvin Austin.

It wasn't the best day for Auburn place-kicker Wes Byrum, who kicked the game-winning field goal in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game. He was 1-of-3 on field goals in the Shrine Game, missing a 44-yarder that was short and a 27-yarder that was wide right. According to the Scouts Inc. analysts who were at the game, Byrum's lack of leg strength was noticeable in the windy conditions.

Georgia linebacker Akeem Dent, who was second in the SEC this season with 126 tackles, showed up several times during the game, particularly on special teams. The Scouts Inc. analysts were impressed with his straight line speed, and his productivity on special teams should only help his draft stock.

Florida defensive end Justin Trattou had a sack in the game.

Instant analysis: Auburn 22, Oregon 19

January, 11, 2011
1/11/11
12:32
AM ET
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Auburn made it five in a row for the SEC, winning a defensive battle of all things to defeat Oregon 22-19 on Monday night in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game.

Here’s an instant analysis of the game:

How the game was won: Auburn drove 73 yards in seven plays for Wes Byrum’s game-winning 19-yard field goal as time expired. The Tigers needed that final drive after Oregon scored and added the tying two-point conversion following a Cam Newton fumble. It wasn’t the offensive shootout everybody was predicting. The two defenses were the show most of the night, and Auburn made more plays on that side of the ball than Oregon.

Turning point: On Auburn’s second play during its game-winning drive, freshman running back Mike Dyer looked like he was down. But the whistle never blew, and he took off for a 37-yard gain down to the Oregon 23.

Turning point II: It looked like Auburn might be on the verge of putting the game away in the fourth quarter, but Newton had the ball poked out of his hands by Oregon’s Casey Matthews. The Ducks, trailing 19-11, took over and tied the game with a touchdown and two-point conversion.

Star of the game: Even though Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley made one bonedhead play when he shoved LaMichael James in the helmet while James was on the ground, Fairley was a dominant force in the middle of that Auburn defensive line and was a big reason the Ducks never really got untracked.

Unsung hero: Dyer came up huge for the Tigers on that final drive. Not only did he have the big 37-yard run, but his 16-yard run down to the 1 set up Byrum’s game-winner.

Stat of the game: Auburn wouldn’t allow Oregon to run the ball and held the Ducks to 75 rushing yards on 32 attempts.

What it means: Auburn completed a stunning two-year turnaround. The Tigers suffered through a losing season in 2008, and two years later, they’re the national champions. It was Auburn’s first national championship since 1957. It’s also the fifth straight year that an SEC team has won the national title. That’s five titles by four different SEC schools, too.

Well, that was wild.

For the second straight year, Northwestern went to overtime in its bowl game. And once again, the Wildcats came out on the short end of a wacky contest with Auburn. NU made two amazing comebacks and received one of the truly unique performances from senior quarterback Mike Kafka, but special teams once again hauntSteed the Wildcats, as Stefan Demos missed two field goals.

The Wildcats seriously might be cursed in the postseason.

The Big Ten falls to 1-2 in bowls.

How the game was won: Both teams committed costly mistakes, combining for nine turnovers. Northwestern made a furious rally in the final minutes, scoring two touchdowns in the final 3:20 and getting the ball back with a chance to win at the end of regulation. But Demos hooked a 44-yard field goal, while Auburn's Wes Byrum converted a chip shot in overtime. Demos missed a 37-yard attempt in overtime but was roughed, giving Northwestern new life. The Wildcats couldn't get into the end zone and tried a fake field goal for the win, but Zeke Marskhausen was brought down short of the goal line.

Stat of the game: Kafka's stat line qualifies here. He went 47 of 78 passing for 532 yards with four touchdowns and five interceptions. He also had 20 rushes for 29 yards and a score. Northwestern outgained Auburn 619-425.

Player of the game: It's got to be Kafka. Sure, his interceptions put Northwestern in a big hole early, but he proved to be extremely clutch on both comeback attempts. The Wildcats had no run game today, so everything fell on Kafka's shoulders, and he made a ton of big throws. A team rarely has a chance to win when its quarterback throws five picks, but Kafka and an opportunistic defense kept NU in the game.

Second guessing: Northwestern's offense was in a nice rhythm at the end of regulation, but the Wildcats went deep on second-and-long when they might have been able to set up a shorter field-goal try. I didn't mind the fake field-goal attempt for the win in overtime, but the Wildcats should have thrown to the end zone at least once after the gift roughing-the-kicker penalty set up first-and-goal from the Auburn 9.

Unsung heroes of the game: So many to name for Northwestern. Wide receiver Andrew Brewer and tight end Drake Dunsmore combined for 16 receptions, 247 yards and three touchdowns. Cornerback Sherrick McManis had an incredible interception and a fumble recovery at the end of regulation. Auburn's Walter McFaden (2 INTs, 1 returned for TD) also deserves a mention.

What it means: Northwestern's bowl losing streak continues, and this one will be very hard to swallow. Until special teams no longer becomes a liability, it's hard to see the Wildcats winning in the postseason. But they never give up, as they showed today and for much of the season. The program might not truly gain national respect until it wins a bowl game, but there was some measure gained today against Auburn. Northwestern loses several standout seniors but should be in decent shape for a third consecutive bowl run in 2010.

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