Fairley’s hard hit on Thomas led to Zac Etheridge’s first-quarter interception. He also came up big in the Tigers’ third-quarter goal line stand. Oregon running back Kenjon Barner appeared headed into the end zone on third down, but Fairley tripped him up at the 1. Linebacker Josh Bynes then stopped Barner on fourth down.
“It feels good to take part in this win,” Fairley said. “Our whole team went out there and did a terrific job. We did everything that we planned. Yeah, we knew they had an amazing offense but we just went out there and tried to contain them and I thought we did a pretty good job.”
Indeed, he helped push back the nation’s top scoring offense.
“I could not be more proud of our defense,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “For one month, our defense was bound and determined to show up and play the best game of their life.”
And like usual, Fairley was in the middle of it.
He might have been running out of steam on the Ducks’ tying drive in the final minutes. He knelt on one knee when Thomas was checking to other plays and was mostly negated, besides one pressure when his hand all but covered the quarterback’s facemask.
Fairley denied being worn out.
“We probably did like 2,000 jump ropes the whole time we were off,” he said.
The Ducks mostly double-teamed him on their tying touchdown drive after recovering an Auburn fumble near midfield. He logged one pressure on Thomas, but also jumped offsides on second down from the 4. Oregon doubled up on Fairley and went to the opposite side for a 2-yard TD pass.
Lesser heralded Auburn defenders also came through. Safety Mike McNeil, who took over when Aairon Savage was injured, had 14 tackles _ 12 of them solo stops. And fellow tackle Mike Blanc tackled James for a safety.
“Their defensive line is really good,” James said. “It is really tough to get around those guys. It really was a difficult matchup. Fairley really is a great player and so is No. 17 (Bynes). They just have great defenders in their front four.”