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Clemson is top Tiger; defense keys win over Auburn

10 September 2017

- "Remember this summer, when Auburn coach Gus Malzahn told anybody with a live microphone that he had handed over the key to the offense to new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey?" "What a tough, gritty game".

Clemson, 2-0 and facing a road game against 17-ranked Louisville next, never dominated, but this team's strength - the defensive front seven - made enough plays to keep Auburn out of the end zone. By the end, the story became the dominance of the Clemson defense, more than anything. We didn't protect the quarterback when we needed to and we weren't able to effectively run the football.

Aside from Kam Pettway's 79 yards rushing, Auburn's running game was virtually nonexistent as he was the only Auburn player in double-digits rushing. But after a pass interference penalty that gave the ball to Clemson at the Auburn 29-yard line, a fumble by C.J. Fuller was recovered by Auburn's Tray Matthews, who returned the fumble to the Auburn 44-yard line. In No. 3 Clemson's 14-6 win over No. 13 Auburn at Memorial Stadium, Clemson's defense showed up boldly all night long, giving the sometimes-struggling offense some wiggle room as the night unfolded. And the pass rush was ridiculous, recording 11 sacks, including a huge one on third-and-goal that prevented Auburn from taking an early two score lead. Bryant has played well, but did get rocked on a potentially dirty hit by Auburn defensive tackle Dontavius Russell. Bryant had to leave the game as a result of the impact, with backup quarterback Zerrick Cooper forced to take over for several snaps. But I was surprised by just how out of place he looked.

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Levy, reflecting on Bryant's return from what initially appeared to be a serious injury, said the QB was "Deondre Francoising [Bryant]", which was his way of saying he was writing Bryant off for the season with an injury. "I wasn't going to go out like that". He came back to lead Clemson's only first-half scoring drive. That dazzling reception (below) would set up a three-yard touchdown run by Bryant that gave Clemson a 7-6 lead. The Tigers did lose a ton of talent to the National Football League from last year's team.

As coach Dabo Swinney said, the Clemson receiver saves his best games for the biggest stage.

Make no mistake about it: Clemson has the best defense in the country. That game will be broadcast on SEC Network. They won the ACC with their lone loss in conference play to the Pittsburgh Panthers.

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However, things don't get any easier for the Tigers as they head to Louisville to face reigning Heisman Trophy victor Lamar Jackson and a unsafe Cardinals' offense. "(Auburn) was definitely a good test and I thought the (defensive backs) overall handled it very well".

Pettway was suspended for Auburn's first game against Georgia Southern and he had zero carries this time a year ago when Clemson beat Auburn before he eventually became the SEC's leading rusher.

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Clemson is top Tiger; defense keys win over Auburn