PHOENIX (Reuters) - Heisman trophy winning quarterback Cam Newton and the Auburn Tigers capped off a perfect season with a nail-biting 22-19 victory over the Oregon Ducks in U.S. college football's championship game on Monday.
Newton, investigated over recruiting violations which had threatened to destroy his college career, completed 20 of 34 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns but nearly saw his season end in disaster when he fumbled near midfield with less than five minutes to play.
Trailing 19-11, the Ducks quickly converted the turnover into a touchdown with LaMichael James scampering over to stun the top ranked Tigers.
Oregon then added a two-point convert to deadlock the contest at 19-19 and set up a dramatic finish to the American college football season.
After a scoreless first quarter the two offenses opened up in the second, the Tigers grabbing a 16-11 halftime lead with Newton tossing touchdown passes to Kodi Burns and Emory Blake.
The top-ranked Oregon offence that averaged over 49 points a game this season was held to just two touchdowns.
James, who finished third in the Heisman voting, caught an eight yard pass in the second quarter for the Ducks other score.
The victory could be the crowning moment of Newton's college career, the hulking quarterback almost certain to be an early first round pick if he decides to declare for this year's NFL draft.
This season Newton ran for 20 touchdowns and was the nation's top-rated passer throwing for 28 scores.
(Writing by Steve Keating in Toronto; editing by Ossian Shine)