No. 13 Auburn at No. 3 Clemson kicked off an unbelievable evening of college football on Saturday and did so as you would expect for a big game between two of the better defenses in the sport.
There were hard hits, critical third down stops, a turnover and several sacks as both teams flew around the ball in Death Valley, with the Tigers from the ACC edging out their SEC brethren 7-6 at halftime in a contest was filled with tension throughout.
Auburn dominated most of the half with quite a bit of smash-mouth football, feeding tailback Kamryn Pettway with 15 carries before the midpoint of the game (he went to the locker room with 57 yards). Quarterback Jarrett Stidham looked solid under the lights but his receivers didn’t create a ton of separation down field against that stingy Clemson secondary.
The home team’s offense didn’t fare much better until mounting their lone, late scoring drive. Signal-caller Kelly Bryant didn’t seem nervous at all in his first major test replacing Deshaun Watson — 11/16 for 104 yards, plus the game’s only TD off a keeper — but was knocked out briefly on a hard hit late in the second quarter before returning for the Tigers’ final drive. Considering the Tigers get the ball back to start the second half, the quarterback heating up could well be enough to give the team the edge in a close one like this.
Auburn will surely rue their chances at having a bigger lead but there’s certainly a fun one brewing between these two.