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Offensive Struggles Plague Auburn in Loss

The Auburn Defense held #3 Clemson to 284 total yards and 14 points in Saturday's loss

(Photo: Auburn Athletics/Todd Van Emst)

In a game that saw Auburn's defense handle the defending national champions, the struggles of the offense were too much to overcome on Saturday night in Death Valley, as Clemson walks away with a 14-6 win, in a game that saw Auburn signal-caller Jarrett Stidham sacked 11 times.

Auburn’s offense relied on the leg of Daniel Carlson in the first half for their scoring production. The senior from Colorado Springs, Colorado succeeded on short field goals in two of Auburn’s first three drives, giving Auburn a 6-0 lead to end the first quarter.

Both drives looked promising for the Auburn offense, starting with the game’s opening possession. Auburn received the opening kickoff, and took over seven-and-a-half minutes off the clock, before settling for a 24-yard Carlson kick, giving Auburn a 3-0 lead early with 7:13 to go in the first quarter.

In the drive, the Auburn offense accomplished three tasks on consecutive plays: Nate Craig-Myers, who was not targeted in week one against Georgia Southern, caught his first pass. That pass was a 23-yard connection with quarterback Jarrett Stidham. Last week, Stidham did not complete a pass over 20 yards. The third was Kamryn Pettway getting his first carry of the season, a three-yard carry on a first down play.

For Craig-Myers, that would be his only catch of the night.

Auburn was forced to punt after putting together another 10-plus play drive, but was redeemed immediately. Jeff Holland hit Clemson receiver Ray Ray McCloud after a completed pass from quarterback Kelly Bryant, forcing McCloud to fumble. Defensive back Jeremiah Dinson took advantage of the opportunity, and recovered the first fumble of his career, inside the Clemson 15 yard line.

Despite being set up with great field position, Carlson was asked to put points on the board again, this time connecting on a 28-yarder, giving Auburn the 6-0 lead to open the second quarter. The drive began with a three-yard carry by Pettway, but ultimately ended with a sack of Stidham, the first of eleven in the game.

Auburn and Clemson would trade three-and-outs, with both defenses supplying huge third-down stands. Clemson’s offense began to show signs of life in their fourth drive of the night. Bryant began airing out the ball, completing three passes before leaving the drive early due to injury precaution. Zerrick Cooper relieved Bryant in the drive, but could not get a first down once he entered, forcing Clemson to attempt a 46-yard field goal. Greg Huegel’s kick was short, keeping Auburn’s lead the same, 6-0, with 6:47 to go in the first half.

Clemson’s defense forced Auburn to punt on their next possession, setting up a late scoring drive for their offense. Bryant returned to the offense on their next possession, and continued doing what he did so well before going down, throwing the football. Bryant completed six of nine passes on the drive, and even carried the football twice for positive yardage, including a two-yard scamper with 0:48 remaining in the second quarter to give Clemson their first score, and lead of the game. After Heugel’s kick, Clemson led 7-6 going into the locker room.

The home team came out firing in the second half, by scoring on their first drive, again by a Bryant run. Bryant broke tackles en route to a 27-yard score, moving Clemson ahead, 14-6.

Scoring concluded with the run by Bryant with 11:48 to go in the 3rd quarter, Clemson’s defense affected Jarrett Stidham for the rest of the game, sacking him seven times in the second half.

Stidham gained 37 all-purpose yards in the game, completing 13 passes for 79 yards, and losing 42 yards in sacks. The leading receiver was Ryan Davis, who caught eight of Stidham’s 13 passes for 32 yards. Pettway returned by carrying the football 22 times for 74 yards, being held out of the end zone.

Carlton Davis picked up 11 tackles to lead Auburn, followed by Tre’ Williams (9), Darrell Williams (6), and Tray Matthews (5). Jeremiah Dinson and Tray Matthews each recorded a fumble.

Defensively, Auburn held Clemson to 284 total yards and 14 points. Kelly Bryant completed 19 passes for 181 yards, with his biggest targets being Hunter Renfroe and Ray Ray McCloud. Renfroe, the hero of the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship game, caught nine passes for 62 yards. McCloud reeled in 81 yards on six catches. Bryant led Clemson in rushing with 59 yards and two touchdowns. The Auburn defense held Clemson running backs to no more than 17 yards on the ground. Adam Choice was the leading running back, with 17 yards on seven carries. Dorian O’Daniel had a career day at linebacker, recording 14 tackles. Austin Bryant had the best day off all for Clemson, sacking Jarrett Stidham four times.

Auburn looks to bounce back next week with a homecoming fixture against Mercer at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 P.M. Saturday, September 16.

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