Reaction: #14 Clemson 26, Auburn 19


Well, Auburn fans, I’d like to start off this postgame recap with a heartfelt “War Eagle.”

Now, with that said, it’s time for some reflection regarding a thrilling but ultimately disappointing loss to our cousins from South Carolina, Clemson. It was a great game, often mirroring LSU-Alabama games last year with all the field goals, but in the end, Clemson was just better than Auburn. Better on offense, better on defense.

I’ll admit, in my preview of this game, I underestimated Clemson. That team has drastically improved defensively and have one of the best offenses in the country. They have two Heisman contenders on offense in Tahj Boyd and Andre Ellington. When Sammy Watkins returns, that’ll be three Heisman contenders. They’re a very well coached team, no matter how you may feel about Dabo Swinney. Even without Watkins, Clemson proved to the nation tonight that they’re not the same guys who gave up 70 to West Virginia.

It’s obviously disappointing to lose a game like this. Nobody likes to start a season 0-1. You don’t need some Fly War Eagle writer to tell you that.

In the end, this game boiled down to one thing for Auburn: the Tigers were very inconsistent in every aspect of the game. Here are some grades and analysis of Auburn’s close loss to #14 Clemson.

Offense: C

You’ll begin to notice a common theme about these grades. It’s all about inconsistency. Kiehl Frazier didn’t play well, but he didn’t play badly. He often took too long to get rid of the ball and was only 11-27 through the air, but he threw for 194 yards, meaning his average completion went for almost 18 yards. The offensive line blocked well for the most part, paving the way for 180 rushing yards (though watching the game it felt like more, as Auburn ran the ball almost at will for most of the game). However, some ugly false starts and breakdowns in pass protection hurt the Tigers. Overall, there were promising signs for the offense as a whole, but there is still much work to be done.

Defense: C-

Once again, this unit was very inconsistent. The defense basically cost Auburn the game, but at the same time the defense is what kept Auburn in it. Clemson rolled up 528 yards, including 320 on the ground. Yet many times Clemson drove deep into Auburn territory, and many times they were turned away and forced to kick a field goal. This Clemson offense is the best Auburn will face all year, and it’s not even close, so don’t look for Auburn to give up 528 yards in a game again this year. There were many times in the game where the improvement was obvious. However, there were still missed tackles, open receivers, etc. The defensive line pressured Tahj Boyd greatly, but in the second half, as Auburn’s defense was getting tired, Boyd began making Cam Newton-esque plays and converting first downs. There are positives for this AU defense, such as the fact they only gave up 16 points through three quarters and allowed just two touchdowns to an excellent Clemson offense the whole game. However, as a whole, even though Clemson’s offense is the ACC’s best, the VanGorder debut was pretty uninspiring. I’d hate to be an Auburn defensive player at practice this week.

Special Teams: A+

Cody Parkey was 4-4 on field goals and made his only PAT attempt (which hasn’t been easy as of late in college football, as many teams have missed extra points in the past few days). The kickoff coverage unit was great. When Parkey wasn’t booming it out of the end zone, the Tigers were making tackles inside the 20-yard line. The special teams lived up to the hype in this game by being the only consistent unit on the field.

Coaching: C

Short and simple, Dabo Swinney outcoached Gene Chizik for the second year in a row. There were times when Scot Loeffler got on a roll calling plays on offense, but there were other times where the plays made little sense. The last drive was a complete disaster. VanGorder did about all he could do, but Clemson’s offense was just too good and Auburn’s players made too many mistakes. Overall, the coaching was decent but, much like most other aspects about Auburn in this game, inconsistent.

Overall: B-

The Tigers put up a good effort, but in the end, Clemson was the more deserving team. Clemson was the better team and earned the win. Auburn was too inconsistent (yes, that word yet again) to pull out a win in this game.

Clemson’s MVPs: Andre Ellington/DeAndre Hopkins/Tahj Boyd. I couldn’t choose just one. They all played so well. Ellington ran for well over 200 yards and made a name for himself in the Heisman race. Tahj Boyd proved again why he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the country and the best in the ACC. DeAndre Hopkins was a player I highlighted in my preview for this game. I said that with Watkins out, Hopkins (a.k.a. “Nuke”) would be Boyd’s target. I was right, as he hauled in 13 catches, including the game-winning touchdown. Clemson’s offense is extremely good all around.

Auburn’s MVPs: Emory Blake/Tre Mason. Both of these guys accounted for over 100 yards of offense by themselves, with Blake hauling in four passes for 109 yards and Auburn’s touchdown and Mason running 14 times for 107 yards. These guys serves as catalysts for the Auburn offense all night and were always relied on in big moments throughout the game.

Conclusion: It hurts to lose. It hurts worse to lose in the first game of the season in heart-breaking fashion. However, the Tigers now know where improvement is needed. We’ll see next week how Auburn can rebound when the Tigers head to Starkville to face a tough Mississippi State team.

War Eagle!