War Eagle Extra

Offensive incompetence costs Auburn shot at historic upset against No. 2 Clemson

Auburn surrendered its chance at an upset against Clemson Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn surrendered its chance at an upset against Clemson Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Fourth and two inside the 10-yard line.

Auburn has the ball with less than four minutes left in the third quarter Saturday night at Jordan-Hare Stadium having surprisingly kept pace with last year’s runner-up Clemson.

The No. 2 in the country is struggling to figure out a suddenly stout Auburn defense that forces a pair of turnovers and does as good of job containing Deshaun Watson as any defense in the country since the Heisman candidate took over as starter.

All Auburn needs for a possible upset is an offense that at a bare minimum doesn’t trip over itself.

It was too much to ask in a 19-13 loss.

When quarterback Sean White had Auburn in position to score its first touchdown late in the third.

The only reward White received for showing he can competently operate the offense was a sideline view of Jeremy Johnson running headfirst into Clemson’s defense line and fumbling the ball over.

The sequence of events wasn’t an uncommon one Saturday night with Auburn rotating all three of its quarterbacks and never failing to kill its own momentum by calling for a substitution at the wrong time. The strange substitution patterns also impacted the running backs as well.

Auburn fans should have known they were in for a long day when little used wide receiver Stanton Truitt received the first two carries.

Clemson had no issue adjusting to the different personnel, but Auburn’s own offense did as evidenced from an almost total lack of production.

Auburn had three first downs going into halftime with 38 total yards on 23 plays. The offense managed on one yard rushing on 16 carries thanks to a handful of negative plays.

It didn’t get much better from there with the quarterbacks combining for 175 yards on 15 of 30 passing. Franklin threw the ball once for negative yardage. They were sacked as a group three times and Johnson and White each threw an interception.

Auburn’s defense kept an upset within reach for as long as it could, but holding Watson down for a full 60 minutes was an impossible task.

The junior gave Clemson some breathing room when he hit Hunter Renfrow in the back corner of the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown with 9:59 to go in the game.

One of the key plays on Clemson’s drive was a personal foul call on safety Tray Matthews. Matthews shoved Clemson receiver Artavis Scott on the sideline after the whistle.

Watson threw his first touchdown of the game three plays later. Watson finished with modest numbers —19 of 34 for 248 yards with a touchdown and interception; 11 carries for 21 yards — but his receiver Mike Williams had the standout numbers catching nine passes for 174 yards.

Auburn’s offense did just enough to keep it a one possession game, but nothing more. Running back Kerryon Johnson scored from 9-yards out with 3:22 remaining out of the wildcat position — he was the fifth player to take a direct snap — and Jeremy Johnson lineup at recevier.

When Clemson turned the ball over on downs with 40 seconds remaining, Auburn took two shots at the end zone in the final seconds, but both hail mary fell incomplete.