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When Clemson was Shut Down.

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Dameyune Craig rolls out!

 

     War Eagle, everybody! Saturday night, Auburn takes on the Clemson Tigers at 6:00 PM in Jordan Hare Stadium. The game will be televised by ESPN, and it's been designated as a "true blue" game. All fans are encouraged to wear their blue for this one. We'll have an open thread up here at TrackEmTigers.com, and the usual play by play. Feel free to drop by and chime in!

 

     Auburn and Clemson have played each other 46 times, but those games became rare after 1971. The two teams have met only twice since then, both times in Atlanta in the Peach Bowl. One of my favorite games was the 1998 Peach Bowl, because it was a defensive gem of a game. The game was played on January 2nd, and was a bit of an "afterthought" bowl that year. Despite that fact, the 3:00 Eastern kickoff set a new Peach Bowl attendance record of 71,212. Tiger fans had turned out in force in the Georgia Dome!

 

     Terry Bowden's Auburn Tigers had lost the SEC Championship game to Tennessee by a single point a month before, and felt that they should have won. The Tigers were 9-3 coming in. In Tommy West's 4th full season as head coach, Clemson had lost 21-7 to Virginia, and had lost to Florida State, Georgia Tech, and North Carolina by seven points or less. Clemson fans felt that they had ACC Championship-caliber players.

 

Game recap after the jump!

 

     Clemson won the toss, and deferred to the second half, electing to kick off to start the game. Evidence that this game might feature mistakes came on the kickoff, as it went out of bounds. Auburn took over on the 35 yard line. It didn't take long for Auburn to return the favor. After dropped passes by Tyrone Goodson and Tyrone Dillard, Dameyune was stripped of the ball on 3rd and 10, and Clemson's Raymond White fell on the loose ball at the Auburn 32. Bill Oliver's defense was in a bind from the start!

 

     Clemson's Nealon Greene dropped to throw, but senior defensive tackle Shannon Suttle fired through the line and sacked him on first down. A draw and then a screen pass to tailback Jarvis Austin netted only seven yards, and Clemson sent in the field goal team. The 47 yard attempt came up short, and Auburn took over at the 30.

 

     Auburn went to the ground game, and sophomore tailback Rusty Williams ripped off runs of 9 and 15 yards to move the ball into Clemson territory. Craig went for the home run pass to Karsten Bailey, but couldn't connect. On second and ten, Craig escaped from the pocket, and scrambled down to the Clemson 35 yard line. From there, three straight incomplete passes followed. Craig didn't look sharp, but a couple of those passes had hit the receivers in the hands. Senior Jarrett Holmes entered the game, and dropped in a monster 52 yard field goal. Auburn had a 3-0 lead.

 

     After a Jarrett Holmes touchback on the kickoff, Clemson got nothing on two plays on the ground. A third and ten dump off to Mal Lawyer was stopped by Ricky Neal and Antoine Nolan at the 26. The Tigers sent in Kevin Laird to punt it away. Markeith Cooper's return set Auburn up at the Auburn 34.

 

     Dameyune Craig's sixth pass of the game netted his first completion, a quick hitch for 8 yards to Karsten Bailey. Craig then hit Hicks Poor on a crossing route to the Clemson 47. Rusty Williams banged out a first down to the 35 on two carries. From there, Auburn stalled. Craig missed fullback Fred Beaseley, Rusty Williams was stoned at the line, and Tyrone Goodson dropped the post pass over the middle. Jarrett Holmes came in, and couldn't quite get the long attempt in. Clemson took over at the 35.

 

     Clemson picked up one first down on a knifing 11 yard run by Raymond Priester, but melted down from there. A personal foul penalty killed the drive, and Laird punted it back to Auburn, where Markieth Cooper fair caught it at the 13. Auburn was backed up.

 

     The first quarter ended after a belly-play to Fred Beasley went nowhere. Craig missed Karsten Bailey, then on 3rd down hit Hicks Poor short of the stake. On 4th and 1, Terry Bowden elected to punt. Clemson got a huge rush on the play, and Jarrett Holmes shanked one for only 22 yards. Clemson had it at the Auburn 44.

 

     Clemson could do nothing with the great field position. Priester was stopped at the line by Ricky Neal, freshman cornerback Larry Casher knocked a pass away from Mal Lawyer, then Nealon Greene's third down pass was dropped. Kevin Laird's pooch punt attempt traveled less than 20 yards, and Markieth Cooper fair caught it at the Auburn 17.

 

     Auburn quickly faced 3rd and 8, but Dameyune Craig found Tyrone Goodson for 13 and a first down. Clemson brought the blitz on first down, and Craig couldn't escape. He was sacked for a 12 yard loss, killing the drive. Two draw plays couldn't pick up 22 yards, and Jarrett Holmes was back in to punt. After a 51 yard howitzer, Clemson started on their own 40.

 

     Clemson again went nowhere on the ground, and Greene was flushed out of the pocket on third and long, and corralled by Antoine Nolan five yards short of the stake. Laird came in, and hit a huge punt to the Auburn one yard line. Incredibly, Markieth Cooper fielded it, and snaked back out over the 20 yard line!

 

     Three straight incomplete Auburn passes followed, and the drops had returned. A foreshadowing of Auburn's 1998 offensive line woes would follow. Jarrett Holmes came in to punt, and was mobbed almost as soon as the snap got there. The punt was blocked by Rod Gardner, Ron Speck collected the bouncing ball at the 18, and took it in for the Clemson touchdown. David Richardson's PAT was good, and Clemson led 7-3.

 

     Auburn wasted little time answering. After the kickoff, Auburn faced 3rd and 8. Craig scrambled, and found junior Karsten Bailey rumbling loose through the Clemson secondary. Bailey appeared to score on the play, evading corner Antwan Edwards, but was ruled out at the 11. The 61 yard pass play set Auburn up in great shape. On 3rd and 6, Craig fired a perfect slant pass to Bailey, who dropped it. Auburn had to settle for the short Jarrett Holmes field goal.

 

     Clemson started at the 20 after a Jarrett Holmes touchback, and Clemson again couldn't move it. Takeo Spikes took down Brian Wofford after a short third down pass, and the punting unit came on. An illegal block penalty on Auburn set the Tigers up at their own 31 with dwindling time. Auburn ran the clock out handing off to Rusty Williams. At the half, Clemson led 7-6, despite only picking up one first down the whole first half.

 

     The second half began with more of the same for the Clemson offense. A third down draw by Jarvis Austin was stoned for no gain by Shannon Suttle and Leonardo Carson. After Kevin Laird's punt, Auburn had it at the Auburn 28.

 

     This time, it was Rusty William's turn to drop a Dameyune Craig pass. The next two passes were successful fades to beat the Clemson press, and Auburn moved it to the Clemson 33 on good catches by Tyrone Goodson and Karsten Bailey. From there, Craig couldn't connect with Tyrone Goodson or Hicks Poor. Jarrett Holmes entered the game, and missed a 50 yard field goal attempt.

 

     Clemson took over at the 32, and on second down Raymond Priester broke loose for a 25 yard romp. From the Auburn 37, the Tiger secondary forced two incomplete passes, and Laird punted a touchback.

 

     Auburn stalled quickly, as Craig missed three straight throws, and Jarrett Holmes was back in. Clemson was set up at their own 44 after the punt.

 

     Nealon Greene connected with Jarvis Austin out of the backfield for 17 yards to pick up one Clemson first down, but the drive stalled from there. Greene's third down pass was dropped, and Laird punted another touchback through the Auburn end zone.

 

     Two more missed Craig passes doomed Auburn to a three and out. Jarrett Holmes was again mobbed on the punt, and this time a horde of players blocked it. Clemson's Mal Lawyer recovered at the Auburn 2. Fullback Terry Weatherspoon plowed in for the TD in just one play. David Richardson's PAT made it Clemson 14, Auburn 6.

 

     Auburn's woes continued. The Tigers were penalized for holding on the kickoff, and were backed up to the 11. Rusty Williams lost two yards on first down. Craig missed two more passes. It was another quick three and out. Clemson got another big rush, but Jarrett Holmes got off a shaky 37 yarder. Tony Horne took the punt, broke through the first wave, and knifed down to the Auburn 26. Clemson was threatening to put the game away!

 

     The Auburn defense rose up once again, turning back the Clemson rushing attack. After Raymond Priester recovered his own third down fumble back at the 32, David Richardson came in and hit a 48 yard field goal. Clemson led 17-6 with 1:48 left in the third quarter.

 

     Markeith Cooper brought the kickoff out of the end zone up to the 26 yard line, to start the longest drive of the day for Auburn. Dameyune Craig took off on third and long to give Auburn one first down. After three more incompletions and a delay of game flag, Auburn was bailed out by a pass interference penalty on Clemson's Antwan Edwards. From the Clemson 45, Fred Beasley bulled to the 32, to give Auburn a first down as the third quarter ended. Clemson held a 17-6 lead entering the 4th quarter.

 

     On 2nd and 10, Craig connected with Tyrone Goodson at the Clemson 16, but a sack followed. A big rush came on 2nd and long, but Craig escaped. Craig weaved his way through the entire Clemson defense, and scored on a 22 yard run! The Tigers went for two, with Craig hitting Bailey in the end zone, but a holding flag nullified that. A second attempt was made from the 19 yard line, essentially a Hail Mary that was no good. Clemson's lead had been trimmed to 17-12.

 

     Clemson appeared to have a first down on a screen pass to Jarvis Austin, but a clipping penalty wiped that out, and another three and out for the Auburn defense followed. Markieth Cooper returned the punt back over midfield, and Auburn started at the Clemson 49 with 11:07 left in the game.

 

     A Craig scramble and an incomplete pass netting nothing, but on third down Craig found Hicks Poor just past the stake for 11 yards. Fred Beasley lost 6 yards on a toss, but the Auburn offense refused to give in. Craig got half of it back on a patient pass to Hicks Poor, then went up top to Karsten Bailey down to the Clemson 7 yard line. From there, Rusty Williams gashed 7 yards for the score. Auburn had taken the lead! An errant pass doomed the two point try. Auburn led, 18-17 with 8:45 left in the game.

 

     Clemson needed to answer, but their offense had only picked up 3 first downs on the day. This drive was no different. On 3rd and 9, Auburn All-American linebacker Takeo Spikes was playing centerfield, and intercepted Greene at the Auburn 41.

 

     Clemson expected Auburn to be conservative with the lead, but instead Craig play faked and found Rusty Williams for 33 yards on a swing pass. From there, Craig hit Tyrone Goodson at the Clemson 6. Two Rusty Williams runs and one by Fred Beasley lost about 5 yards, but ate a ton of clock. Jarrett Holmes hit the short field goal with 4:11 left in the game. Auburn led, 21-17.

 

     Needing a touchdown to win, Clemson could only manage one first down. A 27 yard strike from Greene to Rod Gardner set Clemson up at the Auburn 48, but the Tiger defense slammed the door. Four straight passes were knocked down, by Rob Pate, Jayson Bray, Brad Ware, and Takeo Spikes.

 

     Auburn took over on downs, and Rusty Williams for one first down, then ran the clock out at the Clemson 44. Auburn won it, 21-17.

 

     Despite a horrendous passing day, and terrible punt protection, Auburn had done it. Dameyune Craig had only hit 15 out of 44 passes, and the Tiger running backs had only rushed for 83 yards. This win was because of the Auburn defense. They held Clemson to only 146 total yards, 60 on the ground, and 4 first downs. Auburn has not managed as stellar a defensive performance against a BCS opponent since that 1998 Peach Bowl. Auburn finished the season at 10-3, and was 11th in the final AP poll.

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