GLENDALE, Ariz. — Thirty minutes is all that separates Auburn from its first national title in more than 50 years.
Auburn has a 16-11 lead on Oregon at halftime of the BCS national championship game at University of Phoenix Stadium, where both offenses took a quarter to knock off the rust of a 37-day layoff.
Auburn quarterback Cam Newton has 186 passing yards and two touchdowns, despite looking out of sorts early on. The Tigers' defense, meanwhile, only gave up one touchdown to the high-scoring Ducks and added a safety.
Neither team was sharp in a first quarter that ended in a surprise scoreless tie. Oregon's Darron Thomas threw interceptions to Demond Washington and Zac Etheridge. Newton threw one, as the Tigers gained only 21 yards in the first quarter.
Both teams got it going, though. Oregon scored first on a 26-yard field goal by Rob Beard before Newton threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Kodi Burns to make it 7-3.
After an 81-yard reception by Jeff Maehl, running back LaMichael James scored on an 8-yard throwback screen for a score. Oregon faked the extra point, pitching it to the kicker, Beard, to convert, making it 11-7 with 10:58 left before halftime.
Auburn answered with a 16-play drive on its next possession but didn't get any points after Newton short-armed an easy touchdown pass to Eric Smith in the end zone on fourth-and-goal.
The Tigers still capitalized, however, when defensive tackle Mike Blanc stopped James for a safety on the Ducks' first play, trimming the lead to 11-9.
After the free kick, Newton led the Tigers down the field again, sidestepping a blitz to hit Emory Blake for a 30-yard touchdown up the sideline to give Auburn a 16-11 lead.
Auburn is out-gaining Oregon 279-232. The Tigers had 258 yards on 36 plays in the second quarter. The Ducks had 107 yards on 11 plays, 81 of which came on the long pass to Maehl.