GRADES: Auburn looms large

CLEMSON - It's over. Clemson escapes Wofford and now can turn its attention to the defending National Champions.

Once again the offense struggled right out of the gate and once again Clemson trailed to an inferior opponent as a result. The good news is Andre Ellington ended up with 165 rushing yards on just 22 carries, including a career-long 74 yard touchdown. Tajh Boyd also played better as the game went along, doing a solid job finding his receivers downfield and also attacking running lanes when they became available. Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins also had standout performers as well. The bad news is the slow start combined with the four sacks given up and another failed fourth-down conversion attempt in short-yardage tarnished an otherwise productive outing. The stats don't look half-bad, as Clemson pounded out more than 200 yards on the ground while Boyd threw for three touchdowns, but Clemson's offensive line is struggling with its consistency, and that doesn't leave you with a warm-and-fuzzy feeling headed into next week. Last but not least, where are the carries for Mike Bellamy? He has to be more involved if Clemson is going to have a chance to beat Auburn.

All that needs to be written here is that Clemson gave up 399 yards of total offense and found itself tied at halftime at 21 apiece. Missed tackles, blown assignments and over-pursuit plagued the Tigers throughout the afternoon. While growing pains were expected with this unit after losing five players to the NFL from a season ago, this kind of performance was tough to watch. Credit Kevin Steele for making the necessary adjustments at halftime to limit Wofford to just six second-half points, but three first-half touchdowns looked too easy. Keep in mind many first-year players and long-time reserves were playing late in the game due to Rashard Hall's injury and one-game suspensions handed down to Xavier Brewer and Carlton Lewis, but still, this game shouldn't have been this close.

This is not what you want to see from your holder, Spencer Benton. (Roy Philpott)
The damage shakes out like this: one botched extra point, one missed field goal and one fumble on a failed fake field goal attempt. As good as Clemson's special teams were last week against Troy, they were as equally as bad against Wofford. Simply put, virtually nothing went right for the Tigers' special teams, save a couple of decent kick returns by Watkins.

Was the team looking ahead? Were they simply flat? Is Wofford better than pundits want to admit? It's hard to say, but an eight-point win over an FCS program is far from acceptable in these parts. Chad Morris seemingly called a good game, but what happened on those four sacks, particularly the ones right before halftime? Can't this offensive line be a little more powerful at the point of attack? Kevin Steele can't get out there and defend the option, but he sure seemed to get his unit back on track after halftime. Can this team put together four quality quarters? It hasn't happened yet but it must happen next week if Clemson is to end the nation's longest winning streak at 17 games.

There was nothing about this game worth remembering. Credit Wofford for playing hard-nosed, fundamentally sound football in an eight-point defeat, but the Tigers simply were missing their edge all afternoon. Up next is Auburn, a team that is seemingly the anti-Clemson. Where the ACC Tigers have lost heartbreaker after heartbreaker the last two years, Auburn has won time and time again in dramatic fashion- including last year's thrilling come-from-behind overtime victory over Dabo Swinney and company at Jordan-Hare Stadium. What happens next week remains to be seen, but one thing remains certain: Clemson will not win unless it puts together four quarters of quality football and plays significantly better than it has the first two weeks of the season. And given the way Auburn finishes games, it wouldn't hurt to build a substantial fourth-quarter lead along the way. Truth be told, that may not even be enough. Top Stories