The Tigers pounded out 414 yards of total offense Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium, and looked pretty impressive in doing it. Andre Ellington was spectacular at times, gaining 141 yards on just 22 carries- and he also scored the game tying touchdown in the early stages of the fourth quarter. Kyle Parker took to the air 35 times, completing 21 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns. Surprisingly, both scoring strikes went to Jamie Harper, including one of the most spectacular receptions even seen in a Clemson uniform. Furthermore, Parker's numbers would have likely been even better had he not gotten crunched between two Auburn defenders in the third quarter. Clearly the game plan shifted more to a ground attack once it became somewhat obvious he wasn't 100 percent. Still, the play-calling was outstanding and the execution was solid. It should also be pointed out there was a sense if Clemson had just one true playmaker in its wide receiving corps, this could have been a much different ball game. The unit didn't have a bad night, but there were a handful of big plays left on the field, too.
For three of four quarters, Clemson's defense was downright nasty Saturday night, limiting Auburn to just three points. In fact Auburn didn't have a first down, or a completion until the 6:54 mark of the second quarter. But unfortunately, it only took one quarter, the third, for the SEC Tigers to do enough damage to eventually win the game. The third quarter saw Auburn score on a 78-yard pass on a double move while also taking advantage of some good play calling by Gus Malzahn on its way to 21 total points. Clemson's defensive line did a solid job on containing Newton for the most part and DeAndre McDaniel and Byron Maxwell destroyed two Auburn players on two of the biggest hits of the season. Also Xavier Brewer recorded his first career interception and McDaniel brought in his first of the year as well. Overall, it was a good performance against an athletic, fast-paced Auburn offense that will score a lot of points this year. Was it perfect? Far from it, but as defensive coordinator Kevin Steele suggested afterwards, it's something the unit can build on moving forward.
The lack of a big-play threat in the wide receiving corps certainly didn't help Clemson's chances Saturday night. (Getty Images)
The last sequence with the made field goal, double-clutched snap, missed field will stick Clemson fans for quite some time, but the return game was nothing to write home about for the first time this year too. Dawson Zimmerman was solid, punting seven times for a 41-plus yard average. Also, credit Catman for coming out of the locker room to face the media afterwards, but overall Clemson's special teams didn't make the grade in this one.
The offense came out firing on all cylinders- scoring on a 12-play, 76 yard drive to open the game. The defense was equally as impressive, limiting Auburn to less than 10 total yards in the first quarter. Simply put, the game plans on both sides of the ball, for the most part, worked. There were slight execution problems at times, but this team was coached well-enough to win a game on the road against a team ranked among the top 15 in the nation. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Clemson came in as a touchdown underdog but clearly showed it could play with and beat Auburn. You'd love to have a healthy Kyle Parker throwing downfield to a wide open Dwayne Allen or to Jaron Brown in the end zone. But as Dabo Swinney and Billy Napier said after the game, "Hey, that's football." You play with the hand you are dealt. Fans pointed to this game as a measuring stick for the program against a nationally ranked team on the road- well if tonight is any indication, the future is bright. But expectations for winning the Atlantic Division and ultimately the ACC will only be reached if the team continues to get better and puts together a winning streak to start conference play.