Auburn falls to Clemson, 26-19

By Andrew Yawn

It’s a new season, with a new coaching staff, new-look defense and a new quarterback.

And yet the same problems that plagued Auburn last season appeared Saturday night as Auburn lost to Clemson 26-19.

Sophomore quarterback Kiehl Frazier started his first game and the dual-threat quarterback posed no threat to Clemson and defensive coordinator Brent Venable’s revamped defense.

Frazier looked comfortable throwing the deep ball, scoring on a 54-yard bomb to senior wide receiver Emory Blake in the first quarter to put Auburn ahead 7-3.

From then on, the passing game was stagnant with Frazier ending the game 11 for 27 for 194 yards, a TD and and interception.

With former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton watching from the sidelines, many hoped Frazier would provide the explosiveness missed since Newton’s 2010 season.

Frazier looked scattered and uncomfortable in the pocket and his nine rushes yielded a disappointing negative nine yards.

Clemson junior quarterback Tajh Boyd provided the best Newton impression of the night and seemingly didn’t notice the absence of sophomore phenom Sammy Watkins.

Boyd aired it out for 208 yards, going 24 for 34, a touchdown, and an interception to pair with his 58 yard rushing total.

That combined with senior running back Andre Ellington’s 231 yards on the ground provided Clemson 528 yards of offense, 154 more than Auburn.

Auburn’s defense got pressure on Boyd early with four sacks in the first half, but Clemson’s hurry-up offense kept Auburn’s defense on the field and on the run.

“From a defensive perspective, aligning right at the beginning is crucial. We had a couple of misfits on the run down the stretch,” Gene Chizik said after the game. “No one wants to get 528 yards put on them. We’ll go back and look at everything carefully, and find out why we are displeased with these numbers.”

Auburn’s running game, the one area of the team with no real question marks, controlled the game when given the carries and consistently drove the team into the red zone.

Sophomore running back Tre Mason recorded his first 100-yard game with 106 yards on 14 carries behind a young offensive line featuring three players in their first ever starts.

“I felt our o-line did great,” Mason said. “If it wasn’t for them, what I did wouldn’t be possible.”

Senior speedster Onterio McCalebb added 86 yards on 12 rushes.

However, Auburn’s most consistent red zone threat was kicker Cody Parkey who tied a Chick-fil-A Classic record with four field goals, three inside the 20-yard line.

In the red zone, offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler opted to keep the ball in Frazier’s hand.

Frazier and his receivers lacked timing and incompletions lent a hand to Parkey earning the field goal record.

Blake’s 54-yard reception and Parkey’s leg kept Auburn in the game until the end, and Auburn led Clemson 19-16 with about 11 minutes left in the game.

Then, with the ball on the Auburn 38-yard line on 3rd and 4, Boyd kept it and ran up the middle for 9 yards to continue the drive.

Boyd finished the drive with a 4-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins who filled in for Watkins with 119 yards and the game-breaking catch in the end zone to put Clemson up 23-19 with 9 minutes left.

With 1:24 to go, Clemson kicker Chandler Catanzaro made another field goal leaving Auburn down a touchdown with no timeouts and about a minute on the clock.

Auburn’s last heave effort was a microcosm of what improvements need to be made on offense.

Frazier hit Blake across the middle for 17 yards, however followed that with an incompletion and a fumble.

The night before the game, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney brought five-time world champion boxer Evander Holyfield to speak with his team.

With 30 seconds left, Clemson blanketed Auburn’s receivers and beat redshirt freshman Greg Robinson off the edge, sacking Frazier and dealing a knockout blow of their own for Auburn.

“We feel like we played well enough to win,” Frazier said. “We just need to execute and finish better next time.”

“We have one week to find out (if we’re ready for the SEC),” Chizik said. “We have a lot of great building blocks for next week.”

Auburn plays Mississippi State Saturday Sept. 8 in Starkville, Miss. in the team’s first conference game of the season.

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