Imposing their will

CLEMSON - The 12-play, 76-yard opening drive against No. 15 Auburn reassured the Clemson offensive line that they could impose their will on the host Tigers.

And at the middle of it all was center Dalton Freeman.

But Clemson's big uglies didn't necessarily need that drive to provide them with the confidence to push around the Auburn front.

"We felt pretty good all week about it. We watched a lot of film. Last year, Arkansas lined up and just ran right at them," Freeman said.

The Razorbacks racked up 221 yards in the 44-23 victory over the Tigers.

"That kind of boosted our confidence a little bit, because we take pride in that kind of thing," Freeman said. "I think we ran it 10 out of the 13 plays on that drive. We really just pounded it in there. We felt like that set the tone for the whole game."

Clemson gained 187 yards on the ground for an average of 4 yards a carry.

They were just as good in pass protection, too. Defensive tackle Nick Fairley was the only member of the Auburn defense to pick up a sack in Clemson's heart-breaking, 27-24 overtime defeat.

Throughout the week before the game, crowd noise and music was played through the speakers at Clemson practices all week. The offensive line didn't commit any pre-snap penalties at Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday night.

"That's one of the best things—I think, coming from the game. We didn't have any procedure penalties, because we worked hard on that all week," Freeman said. "It was our first test in a tough environment. Every time you can go into a tough environment and every time you can keep getting better, instead of taking steps backwards, obviously you can build more confidence."

He credited the experience that's back this year along the offensive line. Chris Hairston, David Smith, Antoine McClain, Landon Walker and Mason Cloy all had starting experience heading into the season.

"We've got a lot of experience. I think that's the most important thing. Our guys have been in those situations," Freeman said. "They know how to handle it. They know how to tone out the crowd noise. They know how to focus on the silent snap count we're doing and nobody really panicked. I think that's the biggest key."

Aside from the end of last year's Miami game and the South Carolina game, his experience in a hostile environment was limited. But Freeman was confident that he'd be able to handle the close to 90,000 fans at Auburn.

"We practiced against crowd noise all week. It just becomes part of the game. You learn how to deal with it and do the best you can," he said. Top Stories