Sure, there were too many dropped passes and too much pressure on Tajh Boyd, but outside of that, Clemson did what it needed to do in order to pick up the win and it did it without one of the top wide receivers in the country in Sammy Watkins. The star of the game is Andre Ellington, who rushed for over 220 yards and routinely made the impossible look easy. The offensive line was about what we expected - a work in progress. Even then, Clemson rolled up over 520 yards of total offense and put together two scoring drives in the fourth quarter. Tajh Boyd is obviously more mobile this year (58 yards rushing) after losing 12 pounds and that was big tonight as well.
The big play to Emory Blake was back-breaking early on but that was the lone touchdown given up by Brent Venables' unit. Clearly, the Tigers need to find more answers in the secondary, and the linebackers didn't quite make the number of plays we anticipated- but a win is a win. Venables can teach from this game and don't be surprised to see considerable improvement in the coming weeks from Stephone Anthony, Malliciah Goodman, Darius Robinson and others. Also, give credit to Vic Beasley, with a big sack of Kiehl Frazier late in the fourth quarter.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
The big story here was Chandler Catanzaro connecting on three field goals- all of which were huge. Martavis Bryant made two mistakes by taking the ball out of the end zone on two kickoffs and Spencer Benton hit a couple of short punts early but otherwise special teams were solid.
Dabo Swinney made a tough decision in suspending Sammy Watkins for this game and while it was a hard pill to swallow for Clemson fans, imagine the boost of confidence this team will receive having beaten Auburn without him. Chad Morris had a great game plan to stick with the short passing game without his star wide out and then he just fed Andre Ellington time after time. Defensively, the Tigers gave up one big play and four field goals. Without question, there's massive room for improvement having given up 374 yards, but it was a solid effort.
Clemson hasn't won in the Georgia Dome since 2003 and after what was seen the last time the Tigers took the field in January, this has to be considered an ultra-strong win. It can't be stated enough, Clemson beat a top 25 team without one of the most explosive playmakers in America and it did it in a place it has struggled in recent history. The game plan was strong and the execution wasn't perfect, but it was good enough to pick up the win. While you can't overlook Ball State and Furman, tonight's win basically sets up a battle of top 10 teams in Tallahassee in three weeks.
GRADES: Tigers run over Auburn
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