The opening game of the 2016 season may be one of the strangest I've ever experienced in my entire life. The Tigers looked absolutely inept on offense for a good bit of the game and yet somehow were a heartbeat away from pulling off the upset on a hail mary.
The Tigers somehow took the early lead on Clemson 3-0 on a deep shot 53-yard field goal by the ever-clutch #Legatron. Clemson went into the half up 10-3 and somehow Auburn fans were left wondering how that could ever be the case as maddening as the offense played.
Gus Malzahn rotated all three quarterbacks - and running back Kerryon Johnson and H-back Chandler Cox - throughout the entire game, never really allowing a QB to get a rhythm. It seemed as if the Tigers went into this game treating it as a scrimmage to find out who ran the offense best. Playing one of the better teams in the nation in that manner is a bit strange, but I guess if you're trying to figure out the best QB to play, that's a heck of a defense to figure it out against.
Clemson scored a touchdown with 9:59 to go in the game to make it 19-6 and it looked over, then. The Auburn Tigers managed to get in the red zone multiple times and somehow come away with nothing or field goals at best in the 3rd quarter. With 3:22 to go, Auburn scored a TD on a Kerryon Johnson wildcat play and cut the score to 6 points. Clemson drove the field and in one of the dumbest coaching moves I've ever seen, Dabo Swinney tried to go for the 4th down rather than kicking the FG to seal the win. It failed, and Auburn almost came away with a hail mary touchdown to win it.
Alas, it was not to be. Sean White led a fantastic drive down the field to put Auburn into position, but there just wasn't enough time on the clock.
I am absolutely flummoxed about this team right now. I think the defense lived up to every bit of hype we thought. For all the flack Kevin Steele caught about handling spread offenses, he had the D ready to play, tonight. They somehow mostly shut Clemson's high-powered offense down with the exception of Mike Williams. The offense seemed to find life in the second half, but the red zone woes were there, again.
After this game, all I can hope for is that Gus Malzahn sticks with a single QB and lets them play. The defense is going to win us a lot of games this year. If the offense, which looked better in the 2nd half even if it still struggled, finds some sort of success, then this team could come out looking much better than things looked by the end of the 1st half, tonight.
That would mean finding success in the red zone, though, which... yeah. We'll see.
War Eagle. Always.