OK, so Saturday night’s — er, Sunday morning’s — 19-13 victory against Auburn didn’t exactly provide the type of offensive fireworks many Clemson fans expected.
Clemson was held to its lowest point total in 20 games dating back to the 2014 season, and the Tigers failed to post at least 500 yards of offense for the first time in 11 games.
But it wasn’t a total washout, either.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Sunday evening that after viewing the game video he was encouraged by several realizations, including:
•The offense had its opportunities. “We had four drops, including three touchdowns,” Swinney said. That included two drops by Mike Williams that should have been easy scores.
“He obviously made some huge plays, but there is more than just stats at that position,” Swinney said. “He graded about 78 percent, and that’s not a winning grade for a wideout. It was his first game in a year, and he did some good stuff, but we’ve got to get him better.”
•Auburn’s defense was pretty good. Swinney will feel better if Auburn’s defense continues to flex its muscle. “We had some missed plays we didn’t finish and weren’t as sharp as we want to be, but give Auburn some credit,” Swinney said. “They were pretty doggone good defensively.”
Auburn appeared to have several future NFL players on defense, including defensive tackle Montravius Adams, end Carl Lawson and linebacker Deshaun Davis; that unit may help Auburn make some noise in the SEC.
•The offensive line allowed no sacks. First-time starter Taylor Hearn blended with the unit impressively at left guard and was named the team’s offensive player of the game.
“He did a really good job,” Swinney said. “I’m really proud of Taylor.”
•The offense came up big in crunch time. “To take that ball with 3:20 left after they’ve just scored and have momentum, and we march down the field — that was huge,” Swinney said. “It was good to see our guys respond and show some maturity in that situation. That was the sign of an experienced football team with a lot of poise.”
Behind Wayne Gallman and Deshaun Watson, Clemson drove 60 yards in 10 plays to take 2:42 off the clock, allowing Auburn only 40 seconds to drive 83 yards. Gallman carried six times for 34 yards on the drive.
While Hearn was named offensive player of the game, the defensive honor went to sophomore Christian Wilkins who was making his first start at defensive end. Wilkins had six tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss and one sack. He also had a fumble recovery, broke up a pass and was credited with a quarterback hurry.
Holder Seth Ryan was named special teams player of the game after plucking a high snap out of the air and placing it quickly on a 40-yard Greg Huegel field goal in the third quarter.
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