GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The number of revelers who made their way to the vicinity of Monday night’s BCS championship game approached 100,000.
Inside, the crowd of 78,603 set a University of Phoenix Stadium record, easily eclipsing the 74,628 who watched the 2007 BCS championship game between Florida and Ohio State.
Then there were an estimated 20,000 next door at Westgate Center watching on a giant screen as No. 1 Auburn beat No. 2 Oregon 22-19.
Coach Gene Chizik praised the “Auburn Family” that crossed the country to cheer on the Tigers. Auburn had a bigger contingent inside the stadium.
“Those 30- or 40,000 fans that came into that stadium tonight,” he said, “and probably another 10,000 that were outside and probably another 10,000 that wanted to come back home but couldn’t get here.”
The attendance for all bowl games totaled 1,822,000, topping 1.8 million for the first time. The old record of 1.774 million was set in the 2008-09 bowl season.
FLYING DUCK: Lost in the frenzy of the wild finish of Monday night’s game was the big passing night for Oregon freshman Darron Thomas.
With Auburn shutting down the normally potent Oregon running game, the Ducks were forced to throw more than usual. Thomas set career highs in yards (363), completions (27) and attempts (40). His two interceptions matched a career high.
His 363 yards passing were the second-most in a BCS championship game, exceeded only by Matt Leinart’s 365 for USC against Texas in 2006.
SILENT TRIBUTE: The BCS championship held a pregame moment of silence for victims of the weekend assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson.
The tribute came during ceremonies shortly before Monday night’s kickoff. Names of the six victims were read and Giffords was acknowledged before the moment of silence, which preceded a choir singing “God Bless America.”
Giffords was shot in the head in an attack outside a supermarket that left six people dead and 14 wounded on Saturday.
LEFT IN THE COLD: Wintry weather in Alabama left some Auburn fans with tickets to the BCS championship game out in the cold back home, while others scrambled for alternative routes or endured delays.
Charter flights out of Birmingham Airport were able to take off by midday. On campus, both classes and the viewing party scheduled at Auburn Arena were canceled.
Tigers fan James Harrison made it to Arizona from Charlotte, N.C., but hadn’t been able to reach friends trying to get there.
“I know people who were sleeping in the airport at Birmingham,” Harrison said. “Who knows if they made it or not?”
Chase Payne said he had friends who were scheduled to fly out of Birmingham but drove a few hours to either Memphis, Tenn., or New Orleans to catch other flights.
“They said lots of people have been doing this,” Payne said.
One Alabama resident who didn’t get to make the trip: Gov. Bob Riley, who didn’t want to leave after declaring a state of emergency in Alabama on Sunday.
He encouraged Alabama residents to stay home Monday night and “enjoy the Auburn game.”
CECIL NEWTON: The contingent of Cam Newton’s family attending the game didn’t include the quarterback’s father, Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said.
Cecil Newton was restricted to “limited access” to the school’s athletic program when the NCAA found that he shopped his son’s services to Mississippi State during the recruiting process. He also skipped the Heisman ceremony in New York.
Jacobs said the decision for Cecil Newton not to attend “was mutually agreed upon. Out of the highest respect that Cecil has for Cameron, he won’t be here today.”
Newton had said that his father would be among the contingent traveling from Georgia for the game, but that he didn’t know if Cecil Newton would be attending the game. He said the Newton group would be “loud and proud.”
ALUM CAPTAINS: Bo Jackson and Ahmad Rashad were the honorary captains for the BCS title game.
Jackson played tailback for Auburn from 1982-85 and won the 1985 Heisman Trophy, before going on to dual careers in the NFL and Major League Baseball.
He has often been on the sidelines at Auburn games this season, including the SEC championship game, and was at practice in Arizona earlier this week.
His No. 34 was retired by Auburn in 1992.
Rashad played receiver and running back at Oregon from 1969-71, but in those days he was known as Bobby Moore. He established some 14 school records during his career with the Ducks and finished with 2,306 career rushing yards and 131 career receptions.
The Portland native went on to play 10 years in the NFL before a becoming a sports broadcaster.
HALFTIME STREAK: The team leading at halftime in BCS championship games went on to win the game 12 of 13 times, including Monday night, when Auburn was up 16-11 at the break.
The exception was in 2009, when Oklahoma and Florida were tied 7-7.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.