In The Matchup Of Tigers vs. Tigers, Clemson Prevails
CLEMSON, SC — Primetime television and a setting sun over Clemson, SC will always draw an emotionally hyped crowd into Death Valley. September 9th, 2017 was no different.
The challenge was much different for the Clemson Tigers this week versus the season opener seven days ago. Instead of preparing for a team that was coming off a 3-9 season, Dabo Swinney and staff were working towards a primetime game in Death Valley against SEC power, #13 Auburn.
In a matchup of Tigers vs. Tigers, both teams entered the game with a somewhat lack of experience at Quarterback. Jarrett Stidham came to Auburn coming off a season as the top rated Junior College player in the country, after a transfer from Baylor. For Clemson, Junior Kelly Bryant prepared after a standout performance against Kent State in week one in his first career start.
With a loud crowd against them, Auburn drove down the field to begin the game with a drive that was capped off by a 24 yard field goal by Senior Daniel Carlson. Clemson’s drive ended in a punt just as Auburn’s second of the game would. Kelly Bryant and company would start their second drive of the game from their own 10 yard line. A quick screen pass to Receiver Ray-Ray McCloud was fumbled, and the stout Auburn defense recovered setting Coach Guz Malzahn and Auburn up in perfect scoring position. Clemson Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables and crew would not just give up that easy though, keeping Auburn out of the endzone and only allowing a 28 yard field goal by Carlson, his second of the game.
It wasn’t until 48 seconds left in the first half that Clemson finally put points on the board after a 3 yard rushing touchdown by Kelly Bryant to cap off a 12 play, 88 yard drive that was a “thing of beauty,” in Coach Dabo Swinney’s eyes. Swinney and the Tigers would take a 7-6 lead into the locker rooms for halftime.
The second half was mostly a defensive show with the only scoring play coming via a 27 yard touchdown run by Kelly Bryant, his second of the game. Coach Swinney commented after the game on Auburn’s defense saying, “That was a legit top five defense.”
Bryant displayed throughout the evening his dual-threat playing ability using both his legs and his arm to make huge plays for the home team. Going 19-29 through the air for 181 yards and also adding 19 carries for 59 yards and two touchdowns. Early in the second quarter, Bryant went down after a hard hit. After making it to the sideline under his own power and being cleared by training staff, Bryant returned the next series.
While former Clemson Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele made his return to Death Valley in the same position with Auburn, the fiery Brent Venables and the Clemson Tigers won the defensive battle, led by Linebacker Dorian O’Daniel who had 14 total tackles for the game which is a new career high for him. In what some viewed as the biggest game of their schedule, the Clemson defense exceeded expectations. Only allowing 117 total yards, including only 38 yards on 42 rushing attempts. Clemson also had 11 sacks in the contest, their most since 2004 against Utah State. Out of the total team 11, Junior Defensive End Austin Bryant had 4, which also tied a school record.
While having a 2-0 record is nice, the Tigers look to a huge week three matchup against ACC foe Louisville and reigning Heisman trophy winning Quarterback Lamar Jackson. “He’s like playing against 12,” said Swinney on Jackson.
The Clemson football team has a set of team goals that apply to every season. Last week the team checked off the first goal by winning their opener. Next week they begin their journey towards the second goal which is to win the division.
Image Credit: Clemson Football