Auburn and Clemson squared off in what was probably the best game on the opening Saturday of college football. Clemson eventually took the lead with nine minutes to go in the fourth when Tajh Boyd hit DeAndre Hopkins on a four yard fade pattern to put the Tigers in front 26-19. It was a lead that the Tigers from Clemson would not relinquish.
Clemson looked strong on offense with Andre Ellington slicing through Auburn’s defense to the tune of more than 200 yards rushing. DeAndre Hopkins set a record as well, breaking Airese Currie‘s school record of 12 receptions in a game. Hopkins caught 13 balls for 119 yards and the go ahead touchdown. Boyd also had a marvelous night as he finished 24 of 34 for 208 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
For the Tigers from Auburn, not all is lost. They must now get home and regroup because in six short days, they make the trip to Starkville, Miss. to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Auburn showed last night that improvement has been made from a 2011 team that finished 8-5.
Both teams did some things well, but being the first game, both staffs have plenty to work on heading into week two of the season.
From my vantage point, in front of the television, I saw it all. Let’s take a look at Auburn vs Clemson: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.
The Good: Running Game – The combination of Andre Ellington and the Tiger offensive line looked very improved from 2011. Ellington was finally healthy and it showed. He carried the ball 26 times for 231 yards. The Tigers as a team put up 320 yards rushing, a true testimony to the effectiveness of the boys up front.
The Bad: Secondary – Auburn wouldn’t have scored a touchdown on the night, had Clemson not had a blown coverage that allowed Kiehl Frazier to hit Emory Blake on a 54 yard touchdown pass. Clemson’s secondary was out of position all night, something that must be corrected going forward.
The Ugly: Dropped Passes – This isn’t something that normally plagues the Tigers as they have some of the best skill talent in the country. Normally sure handed Hopkins, tight end Brandon Ford and Martavious Bryant dropped passes in key situations. Ford had a few drops, one of which was a third down that would have put Clemson first and goal inside the Auburn ten yard line.
The Good: Kiehl Frazier/Scot Loeffler – This combination has already made huge strides from the Gus Malzahn era. Frazier only completed five passes in limited action in 2011. On Saturday night, Frazier was 11 of 27 for 194 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Although those numbers are not great, Frazier played well and did enough as a first-year starter to keep Auburn within striking distance all night.
The Bad: Run Defense – Any time you give up 320 yards rushing, you have to know people are going to question your defense. Clemson plowed through Auburn’s front and gashed them inside and outside.
The Ugly: Offensive Effectiveness in Opponents Territory - Auburn drove deep into Clemson territory on several occasions but was only able to kick field goals when they needed to get touchdowns. The lone Auburn touchdown came on a long pass from Frazier to Blake.
Clemson should have won this game by a larger margin. The Tigers continually shot themselves in the foot with penalties and dropped passes. Clemson’s offensive tempo loomed large and by the fourth quarter, Auburn’s defense was just flat out worn down.
Freddie Vickers covers the SEC for Rant Sports
Follow Freddie on twitter: @fredvic9