Posted on September 10, 2017, by Travis Pulver
Heading into Saturday night’s game against Clemson, the Auburn Tigers knew they would have to bring their ‘A’ game. They knew they would need for their running game to get going early to keep Clemson Tigers quarterback Kelly Bryant off the field. It would help if Jarrett Stidham could get the passing game on track as well.
But it just wasn’t meant to be.
For a moment in the first half, it looked like Auburn might get a break when Kelly Bryant was knocked out of the game with an apparent shoulder injury. When he was on the ground, it appeared as if the Clemson season was in danger of being over two weeks after it began.
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As it turns out, he just needed a little time to catch his breath. He was able to return in the second quarter and led the team on a 12-play, 88-yard touchdown drive before the end of the half that gave Clemson a 7-6 lead.
“That drive,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said (ESPN). “Was a thing of beauty.”
But the real thing of beauty was the effort his defense put forth throughout the game. After giving up a field goal on a 15-play, 69-yard drive to start the game, Clemson’s defense clamped down for the remainder of it. This was especially true in the second half when they held Auburn to just 15 yards.
The defense was led by junior defensive end Austin Bryant who had four of Clemson’s 11 sacks, the most given up by an Auburn offensive line in 20 seasons.
“Football players are tough-minded people,” Austin Bryant said after the game (ESPN). “This just shows we were the most prepared team.”
Kelly Bryant finished off the scoring for the day with a 27-yard touchdown run on the opening drive of the second half (making the final score 14-6).
Auburn was hoping to have a better passing game this season with Baylor-transfer Jarrett Stidham in the lineup. He wasn’t bad last week (14-24 for 185 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception). Against Clemson, he had trouble getting the ball downfield and managed to complete just 13 of 24 passes for 79 yards.
To be fair, it is kind of hard to connect with receivers when you are busy running for your life.
“Obviously, we wanted to come out here and win this ballgame,” Stidham said (ESPN). “We didn’t execute. (Auburn’s) defense had one heck of a game. We’ve just got to come out and help them more.”
It may have helped if they had been able to establish a running game. But they were without running backs, Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway didn’t have much luck (22 carries for 74 yards).
Clemson will likely move up to No. 2 with Ohio State losing to Oklahoma. Auburn will likely remain in the top 25. But if they are going to remain ranked, they have some serious work to do. Their defense is as good as ever. The offense, however, leaves something to be desired.
Auburn should have a much easier time next week against Mercer next week at home (kickoff at 4 PM ET). But Clemson is going to face a much tougher challenge. They get to travel to Louisville to face Lamar Jackson and the Cardinals (kickoff at 3:30 PM ET).