Clemson’s multi-faceted offense never quite clicked Saturday night, but the defense did a number on Auburn.
Overcoming several starters’ moves to the NFL last spring, second-ranked Clemson used physical line play and a timely fourth-quarter interception to win 19-13 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn drove within 8 yards of the goal line midway through the fourth quarter when Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware picked off Sean White’s pass into the end zone. It was the second time this game Auburn reached the red zone without scoring.
Defense was supposed to be the weaker of Clemson’s two units this season, but that group held Auburn to three points and 38 yards in the first half.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn played a handful of quarterbacks Saturday without ever finding one who consistently moved the football. Kerryon Johnson, listed as a running back, scored on a 9-yard keeper to close the deficit to six with 3 minutes, 22 seconds left.
Clemson had to survive two Hail Mary throws into the end zone in the game’s final 16 seconds.
Clemson’s victory broke a seven-game losing streak at Jordan-Hare Stadium that stretched back to 1950.
Three who mattered
Deshaun Watson: Clemson’s Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback found wide receiver Hunter Renfrow for a fourth-quarter touchdown that gave the road team some breathing room.
Mike Williams: Recovered from a fractured neck a year ago, Clemson’s star wide receiver passed 100 receiving yards in the first half. He finished with nine catches for 174 receiving yards.
Dexter Lawrence: Clemson’s freshman defensive tackle played like a senior. He has enormous potential.
▪ Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton attended the game. In addition to winning the 2011 national championship game with Auburn, Newton has for years mentored Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.
▪ Newton showed up wearing a Bo Jackson No. 34 Auburn jersey, a light blue blazer and orange shoes. And he wore one of his signature wide-brimmed hats.
▪ The Auburn crowd cheered wildly pre-game when North Carolina’s T.J. Logan scored on a kickoff return against Georgia. The Bulldogs’ dismay is Auburn’s joy.
▪ Watson overthrew a pass on Clemson’s first possession right into the hands of Auburn defensive back Johnathan Ford. Ford was so seemingly surprised he juggled the ball to the ground before establishing possession.
▪ Auburn struggled in the first quarter to get off plays without flirting with delay-of-game penalties.
▪ Lawrence got a big sack in his first college game. He later had a pass breakup that forced Auburn to punt.
▪ Auburn’s Daniel Carlson made his sixth career field goal of more than 50 yards with a 53-yarder in the second quarter.
▪ Clemson went for it on fourth down 1 yard from the goal line. Running back Wayne Gallman scored untouched.