"We came in to the locker room (at halftime) with no long faces," said junior defensive tackle Nick Fairley. "This is what you love when you play football, being down and seeing what kind of heart your team has when you come back out."
With a field goal on the final play of the second quarter, Auburn's offense awoke from its first half slumber and quickly erased Clemson's two-touchdown lead and put the home Tigers up 24-17 going in to the fourth quarter.
However, Clemson regained its composure and kept Auburn off the scoreboard in the fourth quarter and scored a touchdown to send the contest into overtime.
Auburn got the football first in the extra period and had to settle for a 39-yard field goal by Wes Byrum.
Clemson then got the ball back and managed a first down before settling for what would have been a game-tying field goal by Chandler Catanzaro. However, the Clemson center moved the football, stopped, and then snapped it, what should have been an obvious illegal procedure.
One of the ACC officials tried to penalize Auburn for being offsides, but fortunately after a meeting of the officials they managed to get the call right forcing a do-over field goal attempt from Catanzaro. This one, from 32 yards out, was wide left and Auburn escaped with a victory and improved to 3-0 on a night the Tigers didn't bring their "A" game to Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn also extended its winning streak in its series vs. Clemson to 14 straight as a crowd of 87,451 celebrated with the Tigers after the victory.
Auburn coach Gene Chizik said his team was able to make some valuable adjustments at halftime that helped win the game.
"Defensively, the first two (Clemson) games were very vanilla and we figured that with the opponents that they played," Chizik said. "It was really nothing but chalk flying at halftime on a bunch of adjustments so we kind of had to see what their game plan was.
"They caught us off-guard on some things," Chizik said. "They are a very good football team. I thought Coach Roof (defensive coordinator Ted Roof) did a great job in the second half adjusting to what they did.
"I think we only gave up seven points in the second half, and then the same thing happened offensively. We just kind of saw what their game plan was and tried to take advantage of it on some big plays which if our offense isn't hitting on big plays, it is hard for us to continue to move the ball. We are kind of a drive it, drive it, drive it, hit a big play offense. That is more of what we did in the second half."
The ESPN GameDay crew predicted a win for Auburn on Saturday morning outside of Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The first half couldn't have gone much worse for the home team. Clemson set the tone early by winning the toss, taking the football and driving 76 yards on 12 plays to take a 7-0 lead.
Clemson moved the football with a misdirection running game and short passes that kept Auburn's defense off-balance. The touchdown came on a third down and seven play from the eight. Kyle Parker's Utah pass to running back Jamie Harper fooledthe defense and he weaved his way through traffic into the end zone.
The visitors took advantage of the big play to move 61 yards for a touchdown in just five plays and 40 seconds with Parker hitting Harper in the end zone on a diving catch with 1:14 to play in the half.
Auburn got into the locker room at halftime with three points by moving 53 yards on six plays to set up a 35-yard field goal by Wes Byrum as the clock hit 0:00.
At intermission Clemson enjoyed a huge statistical edge with 45 plays for 267 yards while Auburn held the football just 25 plays for 116 yards. Auburn completed just one pass in the first half and held the football for just 10:37 while Clemson's Parker threw for 194 yards as his team kept the football for 19 minutes and 23 seconds.
Auburn came out with more energy in the second half. After starting from its own 45 after a kickoff return by Demond Washington and facemask penalty, a long pass to Adams excited the fans, but the drive ended when Newton's pass into the end zone for Shaun Kitchens was short and intercepted at the one.
The Tigers let Clemson off the goal line on a late hit penalty on Clayton as QB Parker ran out of bounds. However, Auburn stopped Clemson and got the ball back on a punt.
The home team then scored in just six plays, moving 61 yards with the help of a leaping third down conversion catch by Adams.
Auburn's score came on a 13-yard end-around play by Onterio McCalebb, who tight-roped the sideline on his way to the end zone. That cut the Clemson lead to 17-10 with 8:24 left in the third quarter.
Onterio McCalebb scores for Auburn.
With the momentum swinging to the home team, the Tigers gashed Clemson on their next drive, moving 72 yards on eight plays, but the ACC officials almost took away the score. Ruling Adams out of bounds on a touchdown catch from eight yards out, the replay crew overturned the bad call and with Byrum's PAT the game was tied at 17-17 with 3:41 left in the third.
Auburn then took the lead on a perfectly executed out and up pass play from Newton to wide receiver Terrell Zachery, who tight-roped the sideline. "I guess the moves from my dance class helped me with that play," the smiling receiver said.
That play put the Tigers up 24-17 with 1:03 left in the third quarter. Clemson tied the score at 24-24 with 12:36 to play and that ended the scoring until overtime.
Newton, who gave his teammates a halftime speech about hanging in there and coming back to win in the second half, hit 7-14 passes for 203 yards with two interceptions. He ran the ball 17 times for 68 yards.
Adams caught five of the passes for 118 yards and one score and helped get the sluggish offense jump-started in the third quarter.
"Darvin is just a competitor," Chizik said. "When we need a big play, Darvin always seems to come down with those balls, and I tell you it is something else now. He has really come on just as a human being and a football player. I am really proud of him. He did some great things to spark our offense tonight, and we couldn't be more proud."
Michael Dyer ran the ball 16 times for 69 yards and McCalebb carried it 10 times for 81 yards and a score. "Once I got on the edge I knew I was going to score," McCalebb said.
The sophomore running back gave the Auburn fans, and student section in particular, praise for helping the team come back. "We train for five quarters so we are able to play in overtime if we need to," he added.
"Nobody felt good when we were down 17-0, but we worked hard in the summer to prepare for games like this and we came back and did what we had to do to win it," McCalebb said.
Parker led Clemson with 227 passing yards. He hit 21-35 passes for two TDs with no interceptions. Running back Andre Ellington ran the ball 22 times for 140 yards and one score.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said, "First of all, I would like to congratulate Auburn. I give them a lot of credit for hanging in there. They fought back when they had their backs against the wall in overtime. It was a good football game and a good one to watch.
"I am disappointed that we did not win," Swinney said. "I think we have a chance to be a good football team. I think we have the ingredients and I thought that coming in. I was not really sure how they would respond to adversity.
"We did not play a perfect game," Swinney said. "We made some mistakes but they fought hard. They showed poise in critical times. When Auburn made a run they hung tough. Our offense made a critical drive to tie the game. We missed a play to tight end Dwayne Allen in regulation that could have set up the win.
"We also missed a play in overtime. When you go on the road, you have to make those plays. We were not able to finish it and we had the chance to. We win as a team, we lose as a team. It was disappointing to lose by a field goal, but I am proud of the team. I would not trade kicker Chandler Catanzaro."
Josh Bynes led the Auburn Tigers in tackles with seven solos and four assists while Zac Etheridge and Fairley each had four solos and three assists. Fairley, who picked up two sacks last week, had three tackles for lost yardage with one sack. Craig Stevens, who started for the first time this year after being suspended the first two games, made one solo tackle with one assist.
Next up for Auburn is an SEC home game at 6:45 p.m. next Saturday vs. unbeaten South Carolina.