Top-10 Dabo Wins: Tigers defeat Auburn in 2011 behind brilliance of Boyd


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The Tiger tells the crowd that Auburn's 17-game winning streak is over
The Tiger tells the crowd that Auburn's 17-game winning streak is over

A decade (plus some) of Dabo Swinney has produced some of the Clemson’s program biggest wins, two National Championships, four appearances in the College Football Playoff, and the ascension of the brand into one of the nation’s most recognizable.

It has also seen the program turned into one of the nation’s top two programs and arguably the nation’s top program at this point.

Swinney is 116-30 (.795) in 11 seasons (10 full seasons) at Clemson, including a 69-16 mark (.812) in ACC regular-season games at Clemson. Swinney is also 5-1 (.833) in ACC Championship Games and 9-5 (.643) in bowl games. Those numbers are even more impressive when you consider that Swinney was just 19-15 in his first 34 games as head coach. Since then, he’s 97-15 (.866 winning percentage). In other words, Swinney lost 15 of his first 34 games, but it took 112 games for him to lose his next 15.

We decided to take a look at the 10 biggest wins during the Swinney era – biggest from a perspective of what the win meant to the program and on the national stage. We will take a look at the ten we’ve chosen over the next few weeks, and feel free to disagree with us. David Hood, Brandon Rink, and Nikki Hood also disagreed on the ten and where each game should rank.

I was outvoted on No. 10 – I was in favor of the win over Georgia in 2013, but Nikki and Brandon voted on the win over Auburn in 2011.

CLEMSON 38, AUBURN 24: SEPT. 18, 2011

Why it made the list

There have been plenty of memorable games in the Dabo Swinney era at Clemson - especially in the last four seasons, but why does the third game of the 2011 campaign - and a two-touchdown one at that - make the top-10 cut?

Clemson downed the reigning national champs and ended a 17-game winning streak for Auburn - and the victory's importance echoed through the vocal cords of Swinney postgame with Skycam the only view available in the crowd of jubilant Clemson fans:

"It's what I told you before the game - our team believes," Swinney told ESPN's Quint Kessenich. "Our team believes and they've got heart. We got greatness in us. So I told them that you've got greatness in you but you've got to make a decision to be great. They made a decision to be great today - and I can't think of a better place to end this streak than Death Valley, South Carolina, baby!"

The standout performance came on the heels of a less-than-stellar game versus Wofford (a 35-27 win) after the seven-loss 2010 season - and was the first in a tough three-game stretch that also included the reigning ACC division winners back-to-back in Florida State at home (a 35-30 win) and Virginia Tech on the road (a 23-3 win).

The win signaled the beginning of something special in a year that Swinney's Tigers would capture their first ACC title in 20 years. (Brandon Rink)

Stat of the game

There really isn’t one stat from this game that stands out, and that’s because Clemson’s offense came out humming. The Tigers rolled up 624 yards of total offense, including 386 through the air and 238 yards on the ground. Tajh Boyd was 30-42 for 386 yards and four scores while receiver Sammy Watkins caught 10 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns.

Clemson was 14-of-18 on third down and ran 92 total plays. Running back DJ Howard had nine carries for 86 yards.

Another interesting stat from that game – Clemson had lost 14 straight to Auburn dating back to a 34-0 win all the way back in 1951. (David Hood)

Player of the Game

How about two? Boyd was magnificent in just his third start, completing 30-42 passes for those 386 yards. But he also ran the ball seven times for 30 tough yards in what would become a hallmark of Boyd’s career – picking up the tough yards on short-yardage downs.

Watkins was also magnificent, catching those 10 passes for 155 yards. But people forget that Sammy also had seven carries for 40 yards, including a 25-yarder.

Auburn took a 14-0 lead in the contest but was outscored 38-10 the rest of the way. Boyd and Watkins were a huge part of that, hitting on 10-straight third down conversions at one point. A new era under offensive coordinator Chad Morris was born. (Nikki Hood)

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