The scoreboard doesn’t tell the whole story, but Clemson handed Auburn a 14-6 loss on Saturday night.
Auburn looked good for most of the first half. They settled for two field goals in place of touchdowns, but the defense dominated. I felt optimistic.
Then Clemson QB Kelly Bryant and his troop of wideouts took over. The first half ended with Bryant rushing for his first of two touchdowns. Just like that, Auburn trailed 7-6 going into halftime.
Bryant finished the night 19-29 for 181 yards with 68 yards on the ground. Clemson scored two touchdowns all night. Both came on the legs of Bryant, their leading rusher.
If you had told me that Auburn’s defense held Clemson to 14 points, 283 yards of total offense, and forced two turnovers, I would have been certain that Auburn won the game.
I would have been wrong.
Auburn’s offensive performance was disappointing - even ugly - for most of the game. Auburn ended the night with 117 total yards of offense. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham threw for 79 of those. The offensive line was dominated all night by Clemson, who sacked him 11 times.
I’m not a football coach, but playcalling seemed questionable at times.
The loss at No. 3 Clemson was Auburn’s sixth straight loss to a Top 10 team. This defense is elite, but in order to compete in the SEC, the offense has to improve. Stidham has to get rid of the football more quickly. The offensive line has to block better. Receivers have to run sharper routes.
All of those things are fixable, and I believe we’ll see improvement in the coming weeks.
Auburn fans are allowed to be disappointed in the loss to Clemson, but don’t spend too much time on it. Next week is Homecoming on the Plains and the Tigers have one more opportunity to work out the kinks before starting SEC play.