By Ashley Denny.
CLEMSON, SC- Some people may call this Clemson/Auburn matchup a redemption game for Clemson’s heartbreaking overtime loss in Auburn last season, but to Clemson’s Head Coach Dabo Swinney Saturday was just another day in Death Valley.
The game started quickly for the Auburn Tigers as running back Michael Dyer broke away from tacklers for a 52 yard touchdown run, five minutes into the game to make the score 7-0 in favor of Auburn.
After the second 3 and out drive for the Clemson Tigers in the ball game, Auburn took back over and was quick to score again 14-0.
At the end of the first quarter, Clemson had begun to look like a different team, completing two long passes to both Sammy Watkins and Nuke Hopkins putting the Tigers in scoring position, and getting the team excited after two early Auburn scores. The drive was capped off with a 4 yard touchdown pass from Tajh Boyd to Nuke Hopkins making the score 14-7, and waking up the Clemson fans present in Death Valley.
A pass interference call against Clemson made what would be an Auburn 3 and out into a first down and continued to eat away at the clock and ended in a 1 yard touchdown for Auburn ran in by Michael Dyer making the score 21-7 in favor of the War Eagles.
The Tigers then came alive, with Boyd completing several great passes to Dwayne Allen, Jaron Brown, and Charone Peake along with a 25 yard run off of a reverse by freshman speedster Sammy Watkins. This impressive Tiger drive ended with 6 yard touchdown pass from Tajh Boyd to tight end Dwayne Allen in the corner of the end zone, making the score 21-14 in favor of Auburn.
After making Auburn go four and out, Clemson started on an impressive run drive that included a beautiful 23 yard pass from Boyd to Dwayne Allen that landed Clemson on Auburn’s two yard line. The next play, Andre Ellington ran the ball into the end zone for a Clemson touchdown, tying the score up at 21.
“Dwayne has developed this year with his skill set and work,” Dabo Swinney said after the game. “He came in here as a young guy with talent that didn’t know a whole lot, just a lot of talent, and he made a decision that he’d be great and he’s worked his tail off to do so.”
On their last drive before halftime, the Clemson Tigers were successful in stopping Auburn, keeping the score tied at halftime and keeping the momentum with Clemson going into the half. Although Clemson got off to a shaky start, like usual allowing Auburn 14 points in the first quarter, the Tigers have come back outscoring Auburn 14-7 in the second quarter, as Boyd has found his rhythm and several play makers have stepped up and made critical plays. Boyd was 16-24 in the first half for 171 yards and two touchdown passes.
After halftime, it took only four plays for Clemson to score again on a 65 yard pass to Sammy Watkins. I couldn’t have picked a better way for Clemson to start off the second half. After stopping Auburn quickly, Clemson got the ball back and was quick to get back into Auburn’s territory. A fumble by freshman Mike Bellamy though in the red zone gives Auburn the ball back. After a 45 yard dash by Auburn running back Michael Dyer, Clemson was able to stall Auburn’s drive and force the Tigers to attempt a 38 yard field goal, making the game 28-24 in favor of Clemson.
A quarterback keeper by Boyd and a two yard scramble by Bellamy get Clemson right back into Auburn territory, where they’ve been frequently since the second quarter. A 14 yard run by DJ Howard gets the Tigers closer to the red zone, and then a 19 yard pass to Watkins sealed the deal and gives Clemson an 11 point lead.
On Auburn’s next drive, it was clear that Clemson continued to have momentum and that Auburn’s quarterback Barrett Trotter was starting to unravel a little bit. Clemson was able to force Auburn to go 3 and out giving Clemson the ball back.
Clemson continued to click on offense, with an 8 yard reception and run by Nuke Hopkins that caused an Auburn timeout. After the time out, the DJ Howard show started as he rushed the ball for 9 yards in one play and then turned around to rush for 37 in the next play. This drive ended with a 38 yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro, making the score 38-24 Clemson, with 11:48 to go in the fourth quarter.
Auburn starts off their drive with a 41 completion from Trotter to Benton putting the Tigers quickly into Clemson’s territory. An interception by Coty Sensabaugh deep into Clemson territory sealed the deal for the Tigers, and they were able to milk the clock down and earn a W for Clemson, breaking Auburn’s 17 consecutive game winning streak.
Overall, Clemson had 640 all purpose yards, and 238 yards rushing on 50 carries. Quarterback Tajh Boyd improved yet again versus the Tigers completing 30-42 passes for 381 yards. Clemson also improved on their third down conversions, going 14-18.
“We’re not kicking as many field goals this season,” Swinney said. “We’re scoring a lot of touchdowns and converting on a lot of third downs and the reason is speed. We can run by people, run away from people, make them miss and we’ve got a bunch of guys that can do that.”
Overall, Swinney is very proud of the way his team performed today, however he knows that the Tigers have another huge opponent coming into Death Valley next weekend in Jimbo Fisher’s Florida State Seminoles.
“We’re celebrating the win tonight and tomorrow,” Swinney said. “But come Monday at 6:30 AM, we’ll start focusing on Florida State and how we can prepare for them. I’m happy to be 3-0, but we’re still a work in progress. We’re still a team that needs to get better. We gave up some big plays early in the game today, and we can’t have that. We want it all and are chasing greatness, if we’re going to reach it we’ve got to continue to improve and I know we will.”