Despite loss, defense shows flashes

by - Senior Writer -
DeAndre McDaniel picks off Auburn quarterback Cam Newton's pass.

AUBURN, AL – For the better part of three quarters, the much-maligned Clemson defense kept the high-octane Auburn offense in check.

However, the one quarter that the Auburn offense ran wild was part of a stretch that saw them score 24 points and run up 296 yards of total offense in just 25 plays. That stretch occurred on the last drive of the first half and throughout the third quarter, but Clemson defenders were saying after the game that they were proud of how the unit responded in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Auburn would manage just 52 yards in the fourth quarter and overtime, and Clemson linebacker Corico Hawkins said that it was simply a matter of Clemson defenders getting back to doing their job.

“I think we responded well. Guys were doing their job,” Hawkins said. “Guys gave it their all. We left everything we had out on the field and that’s what you want from your defensive players, your defensive mentality. You want players to give it their all. Times like this, things don’t always go your way. We played hard. My teammates, we fought til the end and that’s all you can ask for.”

Hawkins said it’s hard to keep an offense as good as Auburn’s down for an entire game.

“They made some plays down the stretch,” Hawkins said. “I think for the most part they just made the plays and they scored when they had to score.”

Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel, who intercepted Auburn quarterback Cam Newton earlier in the contest, said it was good to see the Clemson defense playing better once the fourth quarter and overtime rolled around.

“We just went back to playing Clemson ball,” McDaniel said. “We kind of let it go in the third quarter and they made some big plays. We knew they were going to come out and try to put the game in their hands and try to take over the game and get the momentum. We just tried to change it back to our momentum in the fourth quarter.”

The play that seemed to be the killer was a 78-yard touchdown pass that saw receiver Terrell Zachery running wide open down the right sideline. Newton hit Zachery in stride and he raced untouched into the end zone to cap the Auburn scoring spree.

“I think they did get us with one stutter-and-go,” McDaniel said. “They just made big plays. Basically launching it up and plays just went their way. But we know what kind of defense we’ve got. We just wanted to go out there and try to get a stop. And we got it. We just tried to take over.”

Big plays were key on all three touchdown drives. Auburn had a 34-yard pass play on the first touchdown drive, a 23-yard run on the second drive, and the third touchdown was the long touchdown pass.

Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele agreed that the big plays were the difference between the scoring drives and the other three quarters.

“We have guys who are fighters. Tough guys,” Steele said. “They fought hard and had a lot of positive things in the first half. In the third quarter, it kind of came unraveled. But we have to do a better job of not allowing big plays to happen. That is what happened on all three drives. They had some pretty big chunk plays. When we didn’t allow those big plays, you saw the result; and when we did, you saw the result. But these guys are fighters, and they are very talented. We’ll just have to keep getting better.”

Defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins said that the game shows Clemson’s defense can be dominant if the players play assignment football.

“Everybody was just doing their job, basically just doing what you’re supposed to do, not worrying about making plays,” Jenkins said. “Everybody was just in their gaps, playing their assignments. The storm came and it hit. We overcame it and we battled.”

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