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Auburn Falls to Clemson 14-6

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Protection breaks down as Clemson’s defensive line dominates.

NCAA Football: Auburn at Clemson Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

#13 Auburn fell on the road tonight at the defending national champions as #3 Clemson dominated the line of scrimmage on the way to a 14-6 victory at Memorial Stadium in South Carolina.

It’s apparent that the rust is still on Jarrett Stidham. The Auburn quarterback took ELEVEN sacks on the evening as Clemson’s highly-vaunted defensive line lived up to the billing.

Auburn’s defense stood tall throughout the contest with the tough task of defending against the explosive Clemson offense, but Brent Venables’ defense harassed Jarrett Stidham all night long and completely shut down the Auburn offense.

After receiving the opening kickoff, Auburn took a nearly eight minute drive down to the Clemson goal line and settled for a field goal. Auburn also notched another short field goal after pushing near the goal line to take a 6-0 lead late in the first quarter. That three-pointer came after the first turnover of the game, a fumble that gave Auburn the ball at the purple Tiger ten. Still, Auburn was unable to convert and settled for that second short kick from Daniel Carlson.

At that time, Kelly Bryant and the Clemson Tiger offense was struggling against the disciplined play of Kevin Steele’s defensive front seven, and when Bryant went down with a minor injury, things looked very promising for Auburn.

However, that’s when the fortunes changed, as Bryant re-entered the game and went on a tear, leading a touchdown drive just before halftime that gave Clemson the lead at 7-6 heading into the locker room. On Clemson’s first drive of the second half, the Tigers took the ball and drove right through Auburn once again, and Bryant scored on a 27-yard run, breaking a tackle as he twirled into the end zone.

After that, the Clemson defense clamped down and Jarrett Stidham got sacked time and again. By the time Auburn’s final drive of the ballgame began, Stidham had taken eleven sacks on the night, while throwing for less than 100 yards. I emphasize “taken sacks” because many of them were either coverage sacks or situations in which Stidham held the ball way too long and allowed Clemson’s pass rush to get to him. Other times, he scrambled away from initial pressure and was dropped later as he continued to look downfield.

Clemson iced the victory with a third-down conversion with just over a minute to play, allowing them to run out the clock.

Auburn’s offense gained just 117 yards on the night, while holding Clemson to 285 yards and the 14 points, their lowest total since 2014 when they lost to Georgia Tech 28-6 without Deshaun Watson. Jarrett Stidham completed 13-24 passes for only 79 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions, and Kam Pettway rushed for 74 yards in his 2017 debut.

For Clemson, Kelly Bryant completed 19-29 passes for 185 yards, and he led the Tigers in rushing as well with 59 yards and both of Clemson’s touchdowns. Auburn limited Clemson to just 2.9 yards per carry and grabbed two turnovers on the night but couldn’t do much with them.

With the loss, Auburn falls to 1-1, and will play Mercer next weekend in what should be an easy victory before SEC play begins against Missouri on the road the next week. Clemson will now play Louisville on the road next weekend in its second big game in a row.