Third-ranked Clemson stifled Auburn’s offense, while starting quarterback Kelly Bryant scored two touchdowns to lift the Tigers to a 14-6 win over No. 13 Auburn on Saturday night in Death Valley.
Clemson’s defense yielded just 117 total yards of offense to Auburn, including just 38 yards rushing on 42 attempts, while tallying 11 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. The sack number marks Clemson’s most in a game since the Utah State game in 2004.
Clemson’s offense, meanwhile, totaled 284 yards, converted 9-of-16 third-down attempts, but turned the ball over twice.
So, how did Clemson grade out in the victory?
Bryant completed 19-of-29 passes for 181 yards, while rushing for 59 yards and two touchdowns to lead his team to the win. Though Clemson’s offense struggled to find a rhythm against Auburn’s stout defense, Bryant handled the spotlight of a primetime top-15 matchup with poise, made enough plays and managed the game well enough to get the job done.
The junior also showed his resiliency after leaving the game with a minor injury midway through the second quarter. After getting the wind knocked out of him, Bryant came back in on the ensuing drive and led Clemson down the field for a touchdown. He capped a 12-play, 88-yard march with a 3-yard touchdown run that gave Clemson a 7-6 lead entering halftime. He went 6-of-8 for 79 yards on the drive and converted three first downs through the air, including a 29-yard pass to Ray-Ray McCloud on third-and-10 that moved Clemson inside the 10 and set up the score. Overall, it was a gritty effort by Bryant who certainly passed his first true test as the successor to Deshaun Watson.
Running Back: C
A week after all four scholarship backs found the end zone against Kent State, Clemson didn’t have a running back rush for more than 17 yards against Auburn. Adam Choice managed 17 yards on seven carries, while Tavien Feaster ran three times for 15 yards and C.J. Fuller had nine yards on four totes. Altogether, Clemson’s running backs averaged less than three yards per carry and didn’t record a run over nine yards.
Wide Receiver: B
Clemson didn’t have a 100-yard receiver for the second straight week, though Ray-Ray McCloud came close with 81 yards on six receptions. Hunter Renfrow had a team-high nine catches for 62 yards, while Deon Cain hauled in a couple of passes for 27 yards. Cornell Powell and Amari Rodgers each recorded a catch for six and five yards, respectively. None of the receivers scored a touchdown, but McCloud and Cain did make a couple of explosive plays with receptions of 33 and 20 yards, respectively. However, McCloud coughed up a fumble near Clemson’s end zone in the second quarter, a turnover that could have been costly had the Tigers’ defense not forced Auburn to settle for a field goal. Overall, it was a solid but unspectacular night for the wideouts.
Offensive Line: C
It was not a good night for the guys up front. Clemson managed just 99 rushing yards and 2.8 yards per carry, while Bryant was sacked three times. Auburn’s defense controlled the line for most of the night and they deserve the credit. However, it was perhaps one of the worst overall games the Clemson offensive line has played in a long time.
Defensive line: A
Just look at these numbers. Auburn had just 117 total yards. They were sacked 11 times. They ran for 38 yards. They averaged 0.9 yards per carry. In other words they were dominated and it started with Clemson’s defensive line which owned the night. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham had someone in his face all night long and usually it was Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence or Austin Bryant. Clemson finished the game with 14 tackles for loss. Wilkins had 10 tackles, including two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss. Austin Bryant had seven tackles and four sacks. Clelin Ferrell had six tackles and a sack.
Dorian O’Daniel was all over the place, especially in the first half when he tied a Clemson record with 10 tackles. He finished the night with 14 tackles, 1.5 sacks and 2 tackles for loss. Kendall Joseph had nine tackles, while Tre Lamar had six tackles and a sack. The linebackers also did a great job in coverage knocking receivers off their routes when crossing and just staying on the running backs out of the backfield.
As great as the defensive front was, the secondary was even better. Even when Stidham did have time to throw, his receivers were not open down field and Clemson was without one of its top corners in Marcus Edmond, who got injured on the third play of the game and safety Van Smith, who did not play due to a knee injury. Stidham threw for just 79 yards on 13-of-24 passing and had a long of just 23 yards. K’Von Wallace played well in replace of Smith at free safety. Ryan Carter, who started at nickel, had five tackles and one pass break up, while Mark Fields, who started at field corner had one PBU as well.
Special teams B
It was not a great game by the special teams, but it was solid. Will Spiers averaged 42.7 yards per punt with four touched down inside the 20-yard line. Kicker Greg Huegel did miss on a 46-yard kick, but he made both his extra points, had one touchback and two returns totaled just 35 yards. Ray-Ray McCloud (9 yards) and Cornell Powell (21 yards) still leave more to be desired on punt and kickoff returns.